09 March 2016
My previous post about Georgetown was detailed about the community of cruisers who congregate there. Daily activities are announced on the cruiser's net, ch 72, at 8:00 sharp. These announcements last for about 40 minutes and cover all aspects of what's happening around the bay and in town.
We were fortunate enough to be in Georgetown for the Georgetown Cruiser's Regatta, February 24th through March 6th. We called this “camp!” There was a dizzying diet of fun in the sun, water, beaches and in town. All of it with an enthusiastic and fun group of “campers.” There were even a few “dirt dwellers” who joined in the fun.
If you want to know precisely what the Georgetown Cruiser's Regatta consists of, go to the website: georgetowncruisersregatta.com. We were blessed with the GCR bulletin board at Chat and Chill, the official headquarters for Regatta. There was even a day for sign up tables at C and C.
Our first event was the dinghy poker run. We paid our $4 to enter. We met Bob and Cathy from Yankee Girl and John and LeAnn from Tacks Free at C and C and decided to go as a group to the poker run destinations. There was talk of going in one or two dinghies but that was quickly rejected. Our dinghies plane with only 2 or 3 people aboard. A note about dinghies, if you are going cruising in the Bahamas or anywhere but the Great Lakes areas, get one that is at least 9 feet long and at least 15 hp!!! Getting a dinghy on plane makes all the difference. You go three times faster and ride higher. This gets you there as dry as possible. Sometimes dry is not a possibility!
The poker run took us to 7 restaurants/bars that had drink and food specials. This took most of the day. Post run fun included rock and roll at the C and C dance deck. Strangely enough, rock and roll sounded a lot like Bahamian Rake and Scrape. But no one complained except for a few with splinters in the feet.
The pet parade was next for us. We had to furnish a bio for our pet, Sophie. They wanted to know all about her, her favorite things, tricks, etc. They even asked us to us extra pages if necessary! Lisa showed Sophie off at her best. That was simply strutting out in front of the adoring crowd. Really, it was quite fun. Some dogs and owners were in costume and some did tricks. Sophie won “oldest dog,” boy were we proud! She won a small basket ball which she promptly shredded. Sophie did meet another Jack Russell Terriorist, Gizmo who was her male twin. He shared his Kong fetch toy, one even she couldn't shred. Steve and Carla brought us one.
The big boat regatta was high on our list. We entered and were interviewed by Len as to the modifications and cruising equipment on our boat. Len then assigned a PHRF Georgetown rating. He gave us 74 vs our LMPHRF of 72. Len was astonished that our rating came out so fast. We had to give nearly a minute/mile handicap to the next fastest boat. He even dinghied over to our boat to see what made it rate so fast. He then told me, “I'm excited to see a fast boat like yours race.” We had a lot to live up to.
There were three divisions for monohulls and two for multihulls. We had an extensive skipper's meeting to be sure those who are not familiar with racing rules were in the know. When the scratch sheets were handed out, there was a bit of trash talk. A Beneteau 42 center cockpit skipper was pleased that we had to give him a minute/mile. I just kept quiet (for once). I did ask about depth of the course. One area showed under 6 feet. Len said he would run the races about an hour before high tide and we should be OK.
We lined up an all-star crew from friends we had met on the beach: Al, Arlene and Chris from Blue Heaven; Ryan and Kimberly from Sophia; and Travis and Mary from Sea Horse. We met at Uproar and tied our dinghies to a large fender anchored next to us. No way were we going to drag the dinghy! The course was a triangle, twice around, about 9 miles. Wind was east at about 15 knots. The first leg was a perfect weather leg. We knew we needed a good beat to save our time. All boats reach at about the same speed but our performance cruiser can go to weather much better than most.
First order of business was to teach the crew our Zenda cheer. They loved it! Don't ask, this is something that can not be divulged off the boat.
The start was most unusual. To avoid confrontations at the starting line, boats could start any time within the 5 minute starting sequence. RC took our starting and finish times to calculate elapsed time. There was no jockeying for position at the start. We were first to the weather mark, closely followed by Departure, Sabre 36. The second leg was through the anchored boats off Chat and Chill beach. We wove our way through the boats to applause and cheers. The third leg was a reach back to the starting line over the shallow area. We felt a sickening bump, bump. Everyone scrambled to the low side to increase our heeling. Al over-sheeted the main to give us more heel. We scraped a few more times in the soft sand then sailed into deeper water.
We were really dialed in on the second upwind leg and started to leave the fleet behind. Everything was going well but I called a really close starboard tack layline. Zenda prevailed and we got a nice puff about 15 boatlengths out. That's when we noticed Lord Charleton, a 45 foot catamaran sailing in on port tack. We hailed “starboard” but they didn't budge. I had to do a swift duck to avoid a certain collision. That's when we heard their skipper hail, “This isn't the Olympics!” After the duck I pinched up and barely made the mark. As we reached through the anchored boats, one yelled to us, “We have that on video, you were really screwed at the mark.” Another boat also hailed that we were cheated by Lord Charleton. Now we know another hail to avoid giving way to starboard tackers.
The last leg was through our dreaded shallow area. We put everyone on the rail and followed the exact track of our previous leg. Tide had dropped a bit so we were worried. This time we not only bumped but could feel some continuous plowing for about 15 seconds! Then we were floating again. We finished first but didn't know when our competitors started. We were 10+ minutes ahead but the computer tells all.
The next race was the ASR (Around Stocking Island) Race. This was 26 miles in similar conditions. Fortunately, it appeared we could float the entire way! First Priority, Catalina 47 started ahead of us and successfully defended their wind for the first 4 reaching legs. We were losing time the entire way. When it became a beat, we tacked away from their closer cover and finally took the lead. We finished 8 minutes ahead, not enough.
The awards ceremony was a jovial affair. One would think we were at an Olympic closing ceremony. Uproar won first in division and first overall for the course race. We won second in the around island race. Prizes were rum bottles, wine bottles and the coveted coconut chalice for overall. Best of all, our crew was first in line at the 30 gallon rum punch barrel! Great friends and fun racing in one of the most beautiful places imaginable.
There was certainly a lot more involved with the GCR. Lisa made brownies for the bake sale, benefitting Red Cross. There was a “treasures of the bilge” yard sale too. The talent show lasted for hours. Acts were from cruisers and local school groups. It was a real production with food and beverage tents. Other camp events were volleyball, bocce ball, beach golf, coconut challenge, scavenger hunt and many others. There was a softball game against the local Bahamian team. The cruisers even bought shirts for the Bahamian team. We missed the closing ceremonies but didn't miss the party after.
Georgetown Cruiser's Regatta was lots of fun and comrade among 300 plus boats in the anchorage. The volunteers who ran the 10 day event put in endless hours of work. No wonder many of the cruisers drop their anchor in Georgetown for months at a time. But after our 3 weeks at camp, it was time to move on and get some rest.