George Town is a mad place especially in winter and especially during regatta week.
Of course, with our luck, this is exactly the time we show up. We approach the town at night and we take the hundreds of lights in the distance for city lights. Must be a big city, we think. But it turns out these are the anchor lights on top of the masts of hundreds of sailboats anchored in the vast shallow harbor across from George Town.
The town itself is much like any other town in the Bahamas: tranquil in the perpetual tropical heat, small buildings strewn along the one-way street, a car passing now and then, people sitting in the shade near the small shops and restaurants greeting good morning how are you are you enjoying your stay. Except for the huge permanent cruising community, there is nothing special about George Town. The cruising community is in fact at least three times more numerous than the local population and the entire economy of the place thrives because of the cruisers even though they remain separated from the locals and from Georgetown spending their time on Volleyball Beach and Hamburger Beach socializing between each other, and only dinghy to town now and then to do some grocery shopping, fill their propane bottles, and most importantly: do their washing in the huge public laundry.
Hundreds of sailboats, many Canadian, spend the winter months in Georgetown escaping the cold in the North, enjoying organized activities like yoga on the beach, volleyball games, domino and scrabble games, arts and crafts classes, poker tournaments, children’s activities, seminars, and many more. And during regatta week, the last week of February each year, the boats are even more numerous, somewhere between three and four hundred.
We remain anchored on the opposite side of the channel in front of Peace and Plenty hotel, alone, away from all other boats, near the town, avoiding the crowded anchorage and the cruising community. Huge beach crowds and participating in organized activities (like playing dominos with Canadian folks) is not something we enjoy in particular.
Yet, we meet some great people and make a few new friends here in Georgetown: Shane, Mary and their three-years-old son Franklin aboard s/v Sea Change, Jan and Susanne aboard s/v Peter Pan, a metal boat they built all by themselves back in Germany and sailed across the Atlantic, Jason aboard s/v Argo and his friend and crew Arno, an expert fisherman, both young guys in their twenties, and finally Tom aboard s/v Triad and his friend and crew Jim.
Tom needed extra crew for his trimaran Triad for the regatta and we thought it would be a great experience participating in the race, so we contacted him on the cruisers net. But there were a bunch of other sailors with a lot more sailing and racing experience than us who also showed up and we didn’t get to crew on Triad for the first two days of the races, broke my heart.
We watch from our lonely anchorage as Triad and at least thirty other boats spread their sails and the harbor suddenly becomes a blue field populated by white butterflies rushing in all direction. A sort of a sailing chaos, the most beautiful sight: sailboats of all sizes and makes flying in the wind, one coming close to another, a sharp tack, sails flap for a moment then tighten and fill with wind again, the sound of the hulls swooshing through the sea, the monohulls heeling at a great angle, the catamarans steady, Triad with one leg in the air, going at an incredible speed. Go Triad, go!
Triad won first place in both races.
After each race there were celebrations, free food, dancing, and for an entire week many other activities take place too: a coconut race, small boat races, volleyball tournament, arts and crafts exhibition, a talent show and many more.
On the third day of the regatta Ivo and I were supposed to finally crew on Triad, but the race got canceled as the wind was expected to drop. However, Tom invites us to go sailing anyway, just for fun, and thus we got to go on an around-the-island sail on Triad, the fastest boat in Georgetown, and it was amazing.
We are about ten people on board, crew and passengers, the weather sunny and nice, the wind about ten knots from south-southwest, the waves on the Exuma Sound side calm, just perfect.
Triad flying as fast as the wind, skimming the water surface with such lightness it feels as if we will lift off any minute. When the wind pushes from port, her port hull lifts in the air completely and when she tacks she lifts the starboard one, the same way you would jump across a puddle from one foot to the other, your legs wide spread.
Tom is great too.
He knows exactly what he is doing, as he has done it a thousand times. Or more. He is concentrated on the sails and the ropes but relaxed and at ease. Sometimes too relaxed. When we return in the anchorage, Tom on the helm, Triad is flying with about 6 knots directly towards an anchored boat. Tom is fixing something on the autopilot and doesn’t look where the boat is going for what seems the longest time. But then exactly when I am thinking it is already too late, we will crash, he pops up and with a swift move pulls the tiller and Triad turns just enough to pass inches from the anchored boat. Then Tom is down again continuing his work on the autopilot, Triad heading towards another boat…
After a perfect around-the-island four-hour sail, Triad the Champion is back in Georgetown. We drop anchor and bring down the sails. Just then a mother dolphin with two babies shows up in the anchorage peacefully swimming between the boats and before we know it, Tom is in the water with them. Jim and Ivo join immediately. They swim with the dolphins for about half an hour. Ivo takes his underwater camera and films them and I take pictures from the boat. A perfect finale for a perfect day at sea.
More pictures from George Town regatta
More pictures sailing-around-the-island on Triad
Triad’s sexy crews
(These are portraits I took for my on-going photo project The Sexy Skipper, which features sailor at their sexiest. We have seen enough sexy bikini-girls on boats in magazines and commercials. Time to pleasure our vision with some sexy guys in speedos !)
More pictures Swimming with Dolphins