Clarence Town, Long Island, Bahamas
March 23, 2010(no, no no. We have not been in Clarencetown for a week. But sometimes the days I start a blog and the day I correct some of the spelling is different. Depends how I feel. Ya know.)
Georgetown has for decades been labelled "Chickentown" by cruisers. It is here that the Go/No Go decision is made by most aqueous adventurers. Those boats with the gumption to brave and cross the Gulf Stream are treated to favourable sailing conditions throughout the Exuma chain of islands: usually good wind, short hauls and safe anchorages with good views.
Once in Georgetown the safe option ends. Distances are greater between the anchorages, the anchorages themselves are less protected, settlements are further apart and the number of cruisers are fewer and further between.
Cruising changes after Georgetown. Which is why most people turn about after a stay in Victoria Harbour and head back north and to the USA to return to Canada or to a yard for haulout. Next year these cruisers will return, float their hulls and once again brave the known waters of Exuma Sound all the way to Georgetown.
Georgetown is very ..... nice. It really is. Really.
Allens Cay has its iguanas, Norman's Cay has its bullet holes and history with drug lord Carlos Lehder, Staniel Cay has "Thunderball Grotto" from James Bond movie fame, Pipe Creek has great scenery and protection and pretty good lobstering, Black Creek has Lorraine's and the laundromat with the best view in the western hemisphere.
Georgetown has "Regadda". At least that is how its American organizers pronounce it.
Early in March of each year some 300 to 400 boats begin amassing in Victoria Harbour. There are several distinct anchorages in the harbour each separated by miles of sea from the others: Hamburger Beach, Monument Beach, Volleyball Beach, Sanddollar Beach, Redshanks, Kidde's Cove (yup, that Kidde).
A few boats, the "organizers" arrive in early December so they can begin organizing. Organizing Regadda is a difficult and socially prominent job. It takes years of preparation and training. People begin helping in various "regadda committees" 5 or 6 years before working their way up the social ladder to the point where they will be tasked with running the daily VHF radio net, or planning the trivial pursuit night or the Texas Hold 'em Poker night. The Regadda Committee chooses its members with great care.
Once esconced in a position of organizing authority cruisers find themselves in an IBM dog eat dog world: There's only one man at the top of Regadda and everyone wants his job.
Many cruisers this year were heard to pooh pooh the regadda. Comments such as "300 boats, no way" or "all that radio chatter - drive you nuts". These people delayed or deferred their trip to Chickentown this year.
Their logic was flawed in my view. The radio chatter is annoying as each "organizer boat" attempts to elevate its social status and importance by having more radio calls than the others. In the process these boats just confirm their incompetence. But you can turn your radio off. This is what Meredith does.
400 boats does not even begin to challenge the ability of Victoria Harbour to provide any anchoring experience you want: isolation is much in evidence at Red Shanks, volubility at Volleyball, simple camaderaderie at Monument. Meredith chose Monument Beach and found 6 boats with whom we socialized for a very pleasant two weeks.
The events are well organized and a lot of fun: bridge on the beach, bocce ball, volleyball tournament, build it yourself sailboat race, trivial pursuit, dressup competition, pet competition, no talent show, Texas Hold'em Poker.
If you do not want to participate you just don't. For those who do the rewards are a lot of fun coupled with new friends made.
Meredith enjoyed a night of trivial pursuit and made it to both ARG meetings (Alcohol Research Group) but for the rest spent time with cruisers in our area. No harm, no foul.
Oh: somewhere in there the organizers hold a sailboat race. No one keeps track of who wins and extra points are awarded for catching a fish enroute. This year one boatR lost its mast when a chainplate failed on the ocean leg of the race.
We found out two days later.
If you miss it too bad for you.