Thursday, March 31, 2011

Georgetown - Summer Camp in Winter

I knew we were in for a different kind of an experience when one morning The of Riders of the Storm by the Doors started coming out of my VHF speaker. As the music faded, it was replaced by a smooth FM easy rock type of DJ voice exclaiming “Gooood Morning Georgetown” in a cadence and volume that would do Robin Williams proud. And so began the morning VHF cruisers net, which was the electronic village square for the 300+ boats anchored in Elizabeth Harbour. All the gossip and all the news packaged up in a consistent format to help cruising veterans and newbies alike to plan their day.

Pat and I were beginning our third year of full time cruising and this year we chose Georgetown as our venue. In the previous two years we had spent most of the winter in Marathon down in the Florida Keys, so this year we decided to go a little farther afield to “see what it was all about”. Our plan was a simple one, deliver the boat to Georgetown, fly home for Christmas and then rejoin the boat in February after we had finished with our condo reno’s in Vero Beach. With the exception of a missed flight due to a closure of I95 between Vero Beach and FLL, the plan went off without a hitch and we found ourselves back aboard Threepenny Opera on February 8, 2011.

During our two previous winter seasons in Marathon we met several cruisers who had braved the transit of the Gulf Stream during the cold front season. We were regaled with tales of organized volley ball tournaments, dinghy races, food shortages in the local supermarket, long line ups for fresh water and of course good weather and crystal clear water. What became apparent was that everybody had an opinion about Georgetown, some were very positive and others were of the dead rotten fish variety, but nobody was indifferent. Of course Pat and I had to see for ourselves.

What became apparent after arriving in Georgetown at the height of the season was that many people had been coming to the same harbour for years. We heard people announcing their arrivals for their 10th, 20th and even 30th seasons of boating in Georgetown. It was a little intimidating at first to be surrounded by folks that had been cruising when we were just finishing school. In fact it felt a little like my freshman year in university when I arrived on campus unsure of what to expect and getting swept up by the waves of upper classmen hell bent on making their presence known through bluster and bravado.

In Georgetown however the the upper classmen were the committees and chair persons who volunteered to ensure that activities were well organized. Unlike school however, the bravado and bluster was replaced by mature enthusiasm so that nobody was left behind. The volunteers went out of their way to welcome the newbies and made a point of trying to include everyone that wanted to participate. The rumours we had heard about cliques and closed societies were greatly exaggerated and anybody that stayed out did so largely by choice. In fact the real challenge was to pace yourself so that you don’t get so over extended that a Black Berry is needed to run your schedule.

After spending two years in Marathon, where the biggest activity of the day was either going to Home Depot or to Publix and the highlight of the week was the arrival of the Winn Dixie flyer, the list of activities in Georgetown was overwhelming at first. Gradually however it came to pass that Pat and I found ourselves drawn into the fabric of the Georgetown cruising community. Partly by volunteering to help, I repaired a lot of faulty SSB installations, and partly by following our friends Chris and Divya aboard the Maggie M, who made our time in Georgetown so memorable. Thanks to them, Pat played the part of Zeus’ daughter Persephone in a play and I helped design and build a sailing inflatable dinghy.

For many Georgetown is as far as the cruising experience goes. For some it represents an opportunity to continue being young by acting young as they relive their youth and for others it represents the physical extent of their cruising range when faced with constraints of time and budget. Pat and I are fortunate in that despite approaching birthday’s we do not have to make an effort at staying young, and we have the luxury of time so that we can continue to explore over the horizon. Georgetown is a great place to spend the winter. The weather is good and the water, despite the swelling of boats during the season remains clear enough to swim in. After 2 months however it is time to see what is beyond the next Cay. We are off to the Jumentos and Ragged Islands next where only the hardiest and most self sufficient cruisers dare to venture. We hope we are up to the task.

Have a great week, I know I will


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1 comment:

Carol & Helmut said...

Good to hear from you after a long dry spell!
As always, a wonderfully written blog and beautiful photos, thanks!