Adult Summer CampMarch 7, 2002
George Town on the island of Great Exuma is Cruiser Central in the Bahamas. At the height of the winter season, there are typically 400 boats or more anchored in the four mile stretch of Elizabeth Harbour that extends on either side of George Town. It's also known as "Chicken Harbour" because it marks the jumping off point for many Caribbean bound sailors. Going beyond there along the "thorny path" is a major commitment. For cruisers short on either time or fortitude, George Town is a terminus and turning around point.
Some people arrive in George Town before Christmas with the explicit intention of remaining parked there until the onset of hurricane season five months later. Many of them have been doing this for years. Others are first time visitors who pause only briefly as they grimly forge their way south. Still others arrive in George Town thinking they're passing through, get hooked (or intimidated), and remain until they've run out of time, money or excuses.
Regardless of why you ended up in George Town and how long you plan to stay, it's pretty hard not to like the place, at least for a while. The water is an incredible light turquoise colour and the beaches are clean. There are a number of anchoring options. If you want the convenience of shopping and eating out, you can anchor right off the town in Kid Cove. Most cruisers anchor across the harbour in the lee of Stocking Island and make the occasional mile long dinghy trip into town as required. A hard core group of recluses hangs out in Red Shanks, south of Crab Cay, three miles away.
It appears almost a fact of human nature that whenever a critical mass of individuals is assembled, the desire for structure emerges. The George Town cruising community is no exception. Despite the fact that many cruisers claim to be fleeing the rigid regimen of the nine to five world, they often can't seem to resist organizing themselves (and others) when given the opportunity.
In George Town, it begins with the morning VHF radio net. At 8:00 am, the net controller for the week advises on channel 68 that he or she is taking the names of anyone who wants to make an announcement in one of four topic categories. At precisely 8:10, the net commences and for the next half hour or so, we're given the day's weather forecast, told the news and stock market highlights of the previous day, urged to patronize a broad range of shore side businesses, and informed about upcoming activities. The men's and women's softball teams announce their respective practice schedules. Volleyball on the beach is more complicated. There are courts assigned for "fun" volleyball, "regulation" volleyball and "kids" volleyball. If you don't know where you fit in, you can attend a weekly volleyball clinic. Then there's a bridge group in Red Shanks. Alcoholics Anonymous meets weekly, as does Women Aboard, an organization of female boaters with several regional chapters who get together to discuss topics of mutual interest. Amateur radio enthusiasts offer information sessions and opportunities to obtain or upgrade radio certificates. Bible study groups are available for men, women and children. If it's Tuesday, there's rock and roll dancing on Volleyball Beach, bring your favourite CDs for the boom box. Sundays, it's an afternoon jam session for guitarists. Someone asks if anyone is interested in getting together to practise Spanish; another boater announces a meeting to update charts of the local area. And on it goes.
We haven't owned daytimers since 1994 and suddenly we feel the need to keep track of upcoming events. "Darn! We can't attend that potluck on Hamburger Beach because of the music concert on Volleyball Beach!"
we jokingly refer to the George Town cruising community as "Adult
Summer Camp", we're as guilty as anyone else in terms of organizing
zeal. Eileen is scheduling weekly music performances and David has started
up a writers' group. But the neat thing about George Town society is that
you can opt in or out at will. If you're feeling stressed by pressures
to participate, turn the radio off, beach your dinghy in front of the
Stocking Island anchorage, and take the two minute walk across to the
windward side of the island. On a crowded day, you might encounter half
a dozen people strolling the two mile long beach, and maybe a couple of
dogs romping in the surf. Relax and enjoy your day off from summer camp.
David & Eileen