Now the boating season begins here in Marco. I’m sure you have seen more boats coming our way and anchoring for a day or so. That’s because now the winter cruising season begins in earnest. People who want to go south begin to congregate in your harbors and anchorages. Many boats have already sailed south down the East Coast and waited for the right weather to cross the Gulf Stream to the Abacos and Exuma Islands in the Bahamas where is warmer and calmer at this time of year.
We, here on the west coast, also have a parade of south going boats plying our waters as they make their way to the Bahamas, Virgin Islands and southward to warmer climates. Marco is in a very strategic location as being the last place to fuel up, provision, and wait weather before crossing over to the east coast or the Keys.
Now you are in position somewhere near Rodrigous Key or Key Biscayne and are ready to cross when you get an appropriate weather window.
Once you cross over the Gulf Stream you are now in the Bahamas. You can either cruise the Abaco Islands or head to Chubb Key and southward to Nassau and the Exumas. The Exumas are made up of an island chain which gives you a rest from pushing hard to get to Georgetown, Bahamas. Georgetown, is a Mecca for cruising boats from all over the United States as well as many foreign flagged sailboats.
Georgetown is where the majority of winter cruisers congregate and enjoy the pleasures of cruising lifewith old friends, new friends and just plain “vegging out”. Georgetown is the Bahamian equivalent of a cruiser’s Mecca.
Georgetown Harbor is well protected and the holding ground is good. However, there are times when a storm may come in and blow quite hard. You must be attentive to your anchor or anchors and tend to them frequently to be sure you are well anchored. We were anchored in 1992 when the “Storm of the Century” came through with 70 + knots of wind. That is the same storm that took “Charley’s Crab” down in the Gulf Stream. He was the owner of all of the Charley’s Crab Restaurants. He foolishly did not wait weather and sunk some where in the Gulf Stream never to be heard of again. Many boats in Georgetown Harbor dragged or ran aground. I am happy to say that we remained stationary with our big Bruce anchor. Do not underestimate the weather when you are going down island. There are no major land masses to stop the wind and waves when you are among the island chains.
What is it exactly that draws cruisers from all over to congregate yearly in Georgetown?
First of all I think that many go there to enjoy the camaraderie of other cruisers and reconnect with cruising friends whom they have met before in other ports or here in Georgetown. It is always fun to set down and talk about your new adventures as well as rekindle the memories of the past. Often times you make friends for life whom you continue to talk with eitherby phone, letters or meeting again in other ports.
The many activities here are ongoing. You can choose to participate with your comrades in many activities such as tennis, golf, soft ball games spring up, sightseeing, dining, beach walking, swimming, arranged picnics, or just plain “liming” which is an island expression for just hanging out. There is also an annual cruising regatta and a race among Bahamian sloops.
Pets are welcomed in the Bahamas. However be sure to have all the necessary papers and vaccination certificates. Also, they must be leashed or in a carryall cage when in public places. Dogs however, are permitted to run free in certain places. Please treat your Bahamian hosts with respect and pick up after your pet.
There are many good places to eat along the Bahamian chain, especially Georgetown. Please do not judge their little dining respites as some of them are in their own humble homes. Some foods may be new to you such as rice and beans, but you can still get good old American food i.e. hot dogs and hamburgers. Be sure to stop at MOM’S bakery van in Georgetown if she still is still coming into town. She makes great breads and other baked goodies.
So, sail on across to the Bahamas. Experience the joy and thrill of crossing the Gulf Stream to the Bahama Banks to Exuma sound. Enter a new beginning of island life and ya Mon, I guarantee that you will like it.
Frances is a Commodore of the Seven Seas Cruising Association and a member of Sailing Association of Marco Island and AP United States Power Squadron.