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National Family Island Regatta in GT

Tuesday marked our return to George Town for the 58th Annual National Family Island Regatta.

Racing for the windward course mark

The best sailors from every major island in the Bahamas converge to compete for the “Best in the Bahamas” title and a year’s worth of island pride.

The frenzied A Class starting line

Racers hiked out on the prye. Notice the name?

Criss-crossing the course

We’ve met many of the locally-built sloops’ crews and were cheering for the No. 5 boat from Long Island, “Running Tide” and the No. 18 boat from Black Point, “Red Stripe”! Along with these fiercely competitive races is a built-up Regatta Point with brightly-colored booths serving delicious local food, frosty rum drinks, and DJ’s pumping lively music, all Bahamas style!

Intently watching for No. 5

The Black Point favorite, “Red Stripe”. Go Lundy!

“Barbarian”, a little off course

A few of the days, we anchored Kaleo in the thick of the action near the finish line. It was close enough to Regatta Point that we could literally feel the music and smell the BBQ roasting. Hot and sunny afternoons were spent meandering through the huts at Regatta Point with throngs of Bahamians and the ever fun crews of “Storyville,” “Morning Glory,” “Pipe Muh Bligh” and “Palaola.”

A race boat heading out to the start line. Up close and personal with “Kaleo”

The market with hand-woven straw baskets and batik fabrics

The streets of Regatta Point

Que romantic race moment

In the evenings, we would move “Kaleo” to a more peaceful anchorage on the east side of the harbor and unwind from the frenetic but fun energy of locals still swaying to the music in George Town. Of course, we took advantage of the well-stocked Exuma Market, propane truck, bank and such before leaving the harbour.

Though planning to leave Friday morning, we ended up staying an extra day to catch a few more races and spend more time with Deana and Troy of “Storyville.” With heavy hearts, the time has come for us to take diverging routes but can’t thank them enough for all their friendship, advice and encouragement over the past several months. They have truly become part of our family on the water and we look forward to visiting them somewhere down island soon.

The crews of “Kaleo” and “Storyville”

With fond farewells we prepped “Kaleo” for an early Saturday morning departure bound for Little Farmer’s Cay.

N 23° 30.39 / W 75° 45.88

Royal Bahamian Red Shanks Yacht Club

Our final evening with the remaining Navy ships was spent at the “Royal Bahamian Red Shanks Yacht and Tennis Club” enjoying happy hour, throwing around the frisbee and taking in a gorgeous sunset.

Christie saving a local starfish

Matt and Ted tossing the frisbee

The yacht club bar

Matt jumping for a high throw

The Navy’s conch shell memento

The Navy being accepted into the yacht club

Now before you think we’ve gone all fancy, schmoozing at the “yacht club”, realize that this is no ordinary club. In fact, it’s a short beach that only exists at low tide. And only accessible by private yachts boats. There is a simple wooden bench and a driftwood bar secured to the rocks so they don’t float away. The backdrop is adorned with creatively decorated and signed conch shells left by members who have come before. And there you have it. A bonified Bahamian yacht club. Design by – and for – the quirky, yet ever imaginative cruising community.

As a place of legend in one of our cruising guides, and positioned in the front yard of our anchorage in Red Shanks, we couldn’t pass it by without a visit before making our way toward Long Island.

Just as many cruisers had done before, we all signed and dated a conch shell and secured it onto the rocky wall. The shell we signed had special significance as Rusty and Linda had given it to us the first time we met them wayyyyy back in Kemah! They had found it on their first trip to the Jimentos and told us to return it to the Bahamas when we got there. The “Royal Bahamian Red Shanks Yacht and Tennis Club” seemed like as fitting place as any to keep the promise. Thanks, Rusty and Linda!

Navy Dinner in Red Shanks

To celebrate Christie and Steve’s return to George Town, and with the Texas Navy starting to take diverging routes, everyone gathered at a restaurant in Red Shanks to reconnect and enjoy each other’s company.

A Texas-size celebration

Ted had made reservations for 11 and we upon arriving, we were greeted with a large pre-set table with lit candles, linen tablecloth and napkins. “SYL” had arrived a few minutes early and was thoughtful enough to assign seating for the two guests of honor. Hand drawn on little napkins were “Steve from Anchor Management,” “The Admiral” and Matt’s sign “The Admiral’s Servant.”

Christie’s place card

Matt’s place card

As we sat down, the chef/owner brought out complimentary conch fritters to start the evening. Rum punches and Kaliks (Bahamian beer) were lifted as we toasted to our friendship and soon enough the table was filled with cracked conch, cracked chicken, garlic shrimp, and New York Steaks with steamed broccoli and honey-glazed carrots.

The food and service were top notch and the evening was spent over vibrant and engaging conversation. On the dinghy ride home, we stopped to say farewell (for a couple weeks) to “SYL” who left for Turks and Caicos this morning.

We’ve spent the past couple of weeks waiting in George Town for our watermaker to arrive and it should finally be here on Thursday. Once picked up, we’re looking forward to setting sail for Long Island on Friday.

A Week in Waiting

The blog and Kaleo have been pretty quiet the past week while Christie flew to Houston to reprovision on family time and a few things that aren’t readily available out here.

She left on Sunday morning and after another Bahamas church service (just as long but without the shouting), I returned to an empty hull. All our stuff was there but the warmth, energy, and emotion that fills Kaleo was noticeably missing.

Knowing that a ship without its Admiral is like having a compass that doesn’t point north, the Texas Navy stepped up to help me through the week. From breakfast on “SYL” to dinners aboard “Morning Glory”, I certainly wasn’t lacking for wonderful and filling meals.

This week highlighted the bonds made while cruising as each boat we’ve spent time with supported, encouraged, and anticipated Christie’s return with me. I am continually amazed by how much everyone cares for each other and will stop at nothing to lend a hand, cook a meal or bring a smile to your face.

While counting down the hours until Christie’s return, I:

  • Enjoyed ice cream at the laundromat a few too many times
  • Crossed some boat projects off the list like replacing the toilet pump, preparing for the watermaker install, wiring water tank monitors and reorganizing the lazzerette
  • Hiked to some ruins on a nearby cay with Ted and Mili and unsuccessfully searched for caves on another cay

The ruins of a kitchen on Crab Cay

Hiking the ruins on Crab Cay

  • Finished two books and slept in a few days
  • Gorged myself on manicotti during “Italian night” aboard “Pipe Muh Bligh”
  • Crafted, with the help of Ted and Mili, a spray shield for the dinghy to help keep us dry on high wind days
  • Met and hung out with Rusty’s brother Jim and his two daughters, who were all a fun addition to the Navy. The girls kicked transom at Mexican Train and Jimmy, in chorus with Troy, serenaded us all with sailor songs on the guitar

Troy and Jimmy playing sailor songs

  • Appreciated the gracious nightly invites to dinner aboard “Morning Glory”
  • Attended “boat church” aboard “MG” with the entire Texas Navy where we sang worship songs, spent time in prayer and watched a service

“Boat Church” aboard Morning Glory

“Boat Church” parking lot

  • Helped Mili on “MG” sew an anchor riding sail, which when hoisted on Kaleo should reduce swinging at anchor

Matt and Mili working on the anchor riding sail

  • Took full advantage of Skype by getting to talk with Christie a few times each day

While in Texas, Christie told me of her quest to stock-up on some of our favorite foods, boat parts, pampering and pick up a few requests for the Navy. Coming from a close-knit Italian family, most of their time was centered around meals of grand proportion with lots of conversation and laughter. One night (as most) the family got together at Christie’s parents’ house for a full-on Bubba Gump-style Shrimp Fest featuring boiled, grilled, and kabobed shrimp with every combination of zucchini, carrots, garlic, pineapple, potatoes, chicken, sausage and more. Breaks from these culinary feasts included road tripping to Dallas with her Mom and Nana to visit friends, dine at her favorite restaurants, and, in her words, “get put back together” at a few salons.

A round of reprovisioning

When I met her at the airport, the porter happily handed off the 3 giant bags and 1 box, weighing in at 50 lbs each. I was impressed that Christie was able to pack everything so efficiently and then get the freight down to George Town. “SYL” was kind enough to help with the pickup by staging their big boat near the dinghy dock to save us from the 30 minute dinghy ride with all the extra weight. We jumped on board, unloaded the dinghy and were back anchored in Red Shanks before dark.

It was announced on the radio upon pulling in that “the Texas Navy would like to welcome the return of Admiral Christie,” and we all (myself especially) were ecstatic that she was home.

Regatta Results

Friday arrived with one thing on our mind. The results of the races were to be announced that evening at the Regatta Awards Ceremony.

We won 1st Overall in our class!

“Around the Island” Race Crew with 2nd place finish flag, custom caps & bottle o’ rum

“SYL” volunteered to be the water taxi back to Volleyball Beach, allowing us to leave our boats in Red Shanks. The gals headed to the beach for the info-session “Eating Well While Cruising” and the guys dinghyied into St. Francis Resort to track down Internet. They soon returned to the beach where Matt was recruited to play a round of tug-o-war.

As the cooking class wrapped up the guys smelled the food being prepared and we all decided it was time for an early dinner. We feasted on racks of ribs and fresh Grouper at the Chat N’ Chill moments before the awards were to be announced.

Admirals and Captains enjoying dinner & sundowners at Chat ‘N’ Chill

The guys were too antsy to sit, so they hovered behind us on the beach as the first round of awards were called out. The “longest fish caught underway” went to “Guiding Light” who caught a Mahi, the first fish to be caught in the race in the last three years! Various awards for photographs taken during the races were handed out next and the well-deserved “baking underway” prize went to our very own, Deana, who made her famous cheesecake, which was voted first place by all three judges!

Then it was time for the multi-hull results. First up, the “In Harbor Race”. Third place was “Sun Burst”, the crowd applauded and we drew in a breath. Second place, “Guiding Light”. And taking first place, by 8 seconds … “Sea Yawl Later!” We all jumped up and ran forward to hoist the huge 1st place pennant (flag) awarded to Rusty and crew.

Pictures, cheering, and awards for the other boat classes and soon enough we were back in the same place waiting on the results of the “Around the Island Race”.

Third place went to “Guiding Light”.  Second place to “Sea Yawl Later” and first place to “Sun Burst” with only a 20-second lead. While another first place would have been great, “SYL” won first place overall with a first and second place finish. Congratulations and talks of next year’s race filled the canopy under the trees as we all reveled in the fun of racing a craft powered only by the wind.

“SYL” nearly floated above the water on the ride home as we all laughed, joked and held out the immense first place flag.

Retreat to Red Shanks

All the activity and action from the past two weeks’ Regatta had taken its toll and we were looking for a great place to relax.

The gals soaking in the sun

Red Shanks is an anchorage about five miles south of George Town but no where near the same pace. As we motored into the secluded cove, only three other boats were around to greet us. As we set the hook, it reminded us of the private protected anchorages that we enjoyed in places like Black Point, O’Briens Cay and Shroud Cay. Surrounded by sandy mangrove covered cays, the water was glass and Kaleo floated without a tug on her anchor chain.

We dinghyied over to “Morning Glory” to relax in the sun, swim, and live the cruiser’s dream. The guys talked boats, solar panels, and other technical topics while the gals played Bananagrams and lounged on the trampolines. All the while, Ted and Mili were generous enough to run their watermaker for us, filling up our empty jugs as we wait for our Cruise RO watermaker to be delivered in the next week or so.

Matt and Ted jumping off “Morning Glory”

A few hours later “SYL” came into the anchorage and joined the afternoon swim and sun while we all made plans for a potluck dinner. Everyone returned to their respective boats to make a dinner dish and wash the salt off. We then headed over to “SYL” to be greeted by a table set with real linen napkins and glassware. A touch that brought the dinner from a cruiser’s potluck to a gathering of friends over fresh fish, filet mignot, chicken and a plethora of delicious side dishes.

Dinner & great company aboard “SYL”

Kaleo quietly floating at anchor in Red Shanks

Sunset turned into twinkling stars and as the night wrapped up, a crescent moon was our street light on the ride home.

N 23° 29.09 / W 75° 44.29

GT Regatta “Around the Island” Race

The Kaleo crew was up early to enjoy a warm and filling breakfast of Migas before boarding “SYL” at 8:30 to prep for the day’s race.

The “Around the Island Race” is an 18.5 mile course that starts and ends in Elizabeth Harbour and makes a circle around Lee Stocking Island with more than half of the sailing in the open waters of the Exuma Sound.

The next hour and half was a flurry of activity as lunches were made, gear was secured, sails were hoisted and “SYL” was tacking and jibing through the harbor. Each crew member prepped for their assigned duties with Rusty at the wheel and mainsheet for upwind, Matt at the wheel and starboard jib sheet for downwind, Ted on the port jib sheet and camera for our photography entries, Christie on the port jib when Ted was snapping photos and thinking through how to make the dessert for the baking entry in 5′-7′ seas.

Ted taking timing notes

“SYL” found her groove and the race horn sounded as we blazed toward the start line, crossing just behind “Guiding Light” and “Sun Burst.” Having run the course a few times before, “SYL” knew where she needed to be as Matt kept her in the wind slot for the fastest speed. Rusty and Ted trimmed sheets as Christie shouted the distance behind and ahead of our competitors, and we all melded into race mode.

Crew of “SYL” underway

Rounding the in-harbour marks (buoys that denote the race course), the bows were pointed toward the open water of Exuma Sound as we plowed forward into ever growing seas. The overnight winds had built large 5′-7′ rolling seas and white froth would spray over “SYL” as we sailed down the back of each one. More than once Matt had to run out front to adjust a line and every time the water would wash over him like it was spit out of a blender.

Matt and Ted adjusting the downhaul on the wet foredeck

When all the other boats in our class tacked out to stay away from shore, Rusty decided to try and save some time by staying in close. The advantage was less current and better wind to continue on course but the disadvantage was sailing breath-holdingly close to the jagged cliffs of smalls cays that could have quickly put an end to our race that day (not to mention any sailing thereafter.)

The captain proved himself to be made of steel as “SYL” came within about 30 feet of the rocky outcroppings while we maintained a very tight course. At one point we could feel the spray ricocheting off the rocks with each wave crash. Rusty was confident in his vessel’s ability to point high enough into the wind to stay clear of the danger. The rest of us pretty much said our prayers, held our breath and waited to jump on any command that would signal evasive action. Once the danger had passed, we all agreed that it was a move that just might have put us as top contenders in our class.

Trusty Captain Rusty

Not willing to give up an inch by patting ourselves on the back, we rounded the final mark and set course for the finish line by twisting, tweaking and trimming every sail for maximum speed. Within minutes, we sailed across the finish line and back into island style, lazily returning to the anchorage area to unwind. Linda and Mili had been prepping a late lunch and we soon were dining like monarchy aboard “Morning Glory”. Full enough to warrant a nap, but almost late for the post-race party, our dinghies ferried us to St. Francis where crews gathered to share stories  and strategies of the race. It was an incredible sunset on Gaviota Bay as we looked at all the race photos displayed, tasted the “baking underway” entries, and sipped sundowners with good company.

The race crew of “SYL”. Stance inspired by the movie “Wind”.

We returned to Kaleo with great anticipation for Friday evening’s Regatta Awards Ceremony where the final results of the races and contests would be announced.

Church in George Town

Another windy but beautiful day woke us on Sunday as we made plans with “Morning Glory” to go into town for church.

They were kind enough to take their big boat, making it a drier ride than if we had taken our dinghies. We arrived at the Baptist church, just before 11:00 with plenty of time to choose our seats. At 2:00 service finally wrapped up and we walked out having experienced a church service like never before.

Service started somewhat like any other we’ve attended, singing worship songs and a welcome from the pastor. Then began the “praise and worship” part of the service in which two congregants came up on stage and belted out hymns to a beat and volume that nearly split our ears. Passionately singing and shouting to the Lord, these ladies didn’t drop their voices a decibel for the next 45 minutes.

Just when we thought service might let out, another preacher took the stage. With a voice that made the previous singers seem like church mice, he ranted and raved about reconciliation for another hour. Every time the preacher would reach a crescendo, signaled by his pointing Heavenward, the drummer would beat the bass drum to drive it further home

Then, while the preacher reached tears, the drummer would rat-ta-ta-tat on the symbols making it sound like rain was falling in the sanctuary. Exiting the stage, the preacher passed off the mic and service ended as benign as it started. Though not a church we’ll attend again, we commend the Bahamians for such passionate and vocal worship.

Stomachs growled as we walked back toward the dinghy dock and the smells from Denny’s Snack Shack were too overpowering to resist. The four of us ordered hamburgers and Grouper sandwiches and sat down eagerly awaiting our warm meals. We forgot to account for the Bahama’s restaurant style and about an hour later our food arrived.

It was 4:00 by the time we made it back to Kaleo so we hung out on board, cooked an early dinner and like evening past, headed to bed early.

The Coconut Challenge

It was an action-packed morning as Kaleo teamed up with Steve on “Anchor Management” and Erin on “SYL” to enter the “Texas Navy” in this year’s Cruising Regatta’s Coconut Challenge!

Team “Texas Navy”

We listened to the weather report on the morning net as we gathered all the supplies for the morning’s race. Flippers-to-be-used-as-propulsion. Check. Bucket-to-be-used-offensively-as-well-as-defensively. Check. Life jackets. Check. Empty our dink off all its contents. Check. Then it was off to Anchor Management to meet up with Steve, remove our dinghy motor and oars, and tow it to secure a prime starting position on the beach by 8:30.

Matt and Steve chose a spot that looked like the best launch pad for the first challenge and then it was back to Anchor Management to finish breakfast and strategize.

The Coconut Challenge consisted of four events:

  • The “Coconut Dinghy Harvest” where teams of four paddle an engineless dink with swim fins and scoop up as many coconuts as possible as they drift with only four total appendages allowed in the water at any time. “Any protests or challenges to the rules must be made in writing on a ripe coconut and tossed into Elizabeth Harbor on the first full moon following Regatta.”
  • The “Coconut Hatch Toss” where we each attempted to throw a coconut through a small boat hatch hung above the volleyball net
  • “Coconut Bowling” with the goal of each knocking over an empty Kalik (Bahamian beer) bottle
  • The “Coconut Ring Toss” where we each lobbed a coconut over the volleyball net trying to land it in one of three rope rings

It was a running start from the beach and all 35+ teams were in the water desperately flipper paddling for coconuts floating and drifting in the wind-swept waters. We worked together as Steve and Christie propelled the dink while Erin and Matt reached for the floating points. The whole time being bumped, splashed and jostled by other competitors. “The Navy” rocked as we scooped 65 coconuts onboard before returning to the finish line.

Pre-race briefing

Our coconut capture

Moving over to Volleyball Beach, we didn’t do as well in the Hatch Toss or Bowling but Erin landed a ‘nut in the 3-point ring during the Ring Toss. Ultimately, we had a blast and couldn’t have asked for better team mates.

Coconut Hatch Toss

Coconut Ring Toss

Domestic Wednesday

Even living in earthly paradise requires household chores and Wednesday was a perfect domestic day as the harbor was glass-like without a ripple of wind on its surface.

It’s these type of days that make for the driest and fastest dinghy rides into town, so we took full advantage of it.

The day started off a little rough as Christie took a tumble out of the companionway and smacked her check on the winch. She recovered quickly but will suffer a bruise below the eye and lost a little skin from her leg. But she toughed it out and bounced up to head out for beach yoga taught by Erin. We’re so enjoying her company and yoga expertise.

Matt took the time to do another round of water with the jerry jugs (have we mentioned that were really excited for the watermaker). After yoga, we both headed into town to have the propane tanks filled, get gas for our outboard motor and grocery shop before the winds picked up and the forecast storm settled over us.

Getting propane George Town-style was a new experience as about 35 cruisers and locals all gathered in a dirt parking lot a half hour before 11:00 to wait for the propane truck to arrive that comes every Wednesday. Nearly on time, it lumbered into the lot ready to distribute its payload to our awaiting bottles. Another hour later, our tanks were topped up and we were off to the Exuma Market for some fresh produce.

The weekly propane truck

We all gathered at the boat ramp near the end of Lake Victoria

Leaving the market, the sky foretold of a torrential rain blowing towards us. So we hedged our bets, tossed the groceries in the dink and gunned it toward Kaleo on the other side of the harbor. It’s a good 20 minute ride with the dink loaded down and we could see the rain line marching toward us. A quick prayer got us back to the boat just before the rain started and upon arrival, we discovered that all of our ports and hatches had been closed up tight by a helpful elf. Later we learned that Deana had been sweet enough to come over and close the boat up, knowing that we were still in town. The Navy certainly has a wonderful way of watching out for one another.

Just as we handed the groceries into the companionway, the rain reached us and began to rinse the boat of salt and sand. Matt took a break in the rain to scurry over to Anchor Management to lend a hand with a malfunctioning wi-fi extender. While out, the next round of rain found Matt mid-way through the trip and quickly washed him of all the day’s salt and sand as well.

The rain and wind continued as Chris Parker voiced an updated forecast over the VHF, “the rain would eventually subside but the wind would increase.” It’s nice having the weather guru as a neighbor in the harbor. The weather blowing in earlier than forecast was disappointing as the Regatta Kick-Off Beach Bash was planned to start at 5:00. A few brave dinghy pilots headed in for the start of the party but most of us stayed aboard to hear if it was still a go. The rum punches and Sand’s were flowing on time but dinner had been delayed so we could hear the volume increase from the early party-goers but held out in hopes of dinner to accompany the libations. In the end, dinner wasn’t cancelled but Matt took one for the Kaleo team and headed in for a short while to pick up our dinners before bashing back through the 25 knot winds to enjoy dinner together in a warm, dry home.

Beach Bash dinner tickets. (We did get more than ‘a fry’ ;o).

It will be early to rise for the Coconut Challenge tomorrow so we’ll tuck in early for a windy night’s rest.

Regatta Kick-Off

Tuesday dawned bright and sunny and the day began with morning yoga overlooking the Exuma Sound at Kavalli House. Thanks again to our lovely personal yogi, Erin, for taking us through another centering and challenging session in such a spectacular setting.

Striking a pose at Kevalli House

Unstriking pose at Kevalli House

Crouching into Crow

Overlooking the Exuma Sound from Kevalli House

 Returning from yoga

While the gals zenned out with yoga, the guys took care of a few errands. Steve lent Matt a hand with our water jerry cans in his much faster dinghy, making what would have been an hour plus trip into a quick 30 minutes (We’re counting down the days until our 20GPH watermaker arrives). With Kaleo nearly topped up with water, it was time to get ready for the Regatta Dinghy Parade and Poker Run.

Upon pulling up to Volleyball Beach, we saw dinghies and drivers adorned with the glitz and glimmer of “Pure Gold,” the theme for this year’s regatta. Gold wigs, anchors, flags, shirts and shorts were all in theme as about 50 dinghies made chaotic circles waiting for the start. There were a few dinghies that didn’t follow the theme but were so well decorated that it only added to the spectacle. There were a few crews of pirates, arrgghhhhing as they jousted with each other and Zero to Cruising teamed up with another couple in full army gear with palm fronds camouflaging their dinghies. All the pageantry signaled that regatta week had officially started and everyone was in it to win it.

Regatta Kick-off with Dinghy Parade

Just after the parade, we teamed up with Steve of Anchor Management to take on the Dinghy Poker Run, a harbor-crisscrossing-card-collecting-pub-crawl. The goal of the Poker Run is to get the best poker hand by drawing one card from each station, each station being in a different part of the island.

At our first station, Eddie’s Edgewater Grill, we drew a 4 of clubs and so began an afternoon of dinghy dashing, in zigzag fashion, to collect our remaining four cards. After Eddie’s, we buzzed back across the harbor (a 10 minute dinghy ride), with salt spray splashing our game faces to Alvin’s Snack Bar, where we drew another club and our next destination of Denny’s Snack Bar. Back across the harbor. Denny’s, like all other checkpoints, offered a Poker Run drink special and after drawing our third club, we took a break to enjoy a round of Bahama Mama Punch. With three clubs in hand, the hunt for a flush was on.

Dinghy Poker Run Second Checkpoint, Alvin’s Snack Bar

Our draw from Alvin’s

Our next stop was St. Francis Resort so it was back in the dink and back across the harbor where luck was with us and we drew the fourth club. Our last jaunt across the harbor to Palm Bay Resort was filled with anticipation, as a flush would surely win us the grand prize of $175. We beached the dink, stopped at the free appetizer station (conch fritters and grouper fingers) then sauntered over to the poker station. We each tried to convince the other that it was their turn to pick the last card but settled for a couple rounds of “Rock, Paper, Scissors-style draw” to decide who would blindly finish our hand. It was as if the room hushed when we reached for the card, and with deliberate hesitation, the card was flipped to reveal a king of diamonds. A collective groan from our team and a round of Rum Punch to lament, wrapped up our almost-win of the Dinghy Poker Run. We were even offered a couple rounds of complimentary colorful Jell-O shots to ease the sting.

Dinghy Poker Run, St. Francis Resort

Our final hand

After a full day of sun, salt and bouncing around in the dink, we skipped the beach-side meet and greet in favor of seafood dinner aboard and an early bedtime. Believe it or not, we’re having to pace ourselves in this jam-packed regatta schedule.

Regatta Registration Day

Imagine a warm, tropical beach with a dense row of dinghies clung to its shoreline like ants on their hill.  Now, picture twice that amount of cruisers scurrying atop the sand visiting rows of decorated tables while the sounds of Bob Marley and Jimmy Buffet float over the surf. At each station, eager volunteers are ready to help sign you up for just about any activity you could want at a seaside summer camp.

This is Registration Day and the start of the 31st Annual George Town Cruising Regatta.

Regatta Registration Day

Visiting with Mike and Rebecca of Zero to Cruising

Amongst the scramble, we spent the morning signing up for a slew of activities planned for the upcoming weeks. We’ll post more details as the events take place but we’re teaming up as the “Texas Navy” to participate in Adult Field Day activities like the Dinghy Parade, Dinghy Poker Run and the Coconut Challenge, a series of events involving, you guessed it, coconuts. We’re also putting on our game faces to crew aboard “SYL” in the “Around Stocking Island Race” as well as the “In-Harbour Race”. Each day will also be filled with various info sessions on topics ranging from “Weather” and “Dinghies A to Z” to “Researching the Bucket List” and “Winning Fishing in the Bahamas”. And some nights will be spent at social gatherings on the beach.

Signing the annual GT Regatta Mural

After sign-ups, we boarded “SYL” for a practice run on the race course. Rusty, Matt and Ted ran half the course while practicing key tacks and downwind maneuvers. Though we’ve been sailing at a cruising pace for the past several months aboard Kaleo, it only took a moment to bounce back into race mode as we prepare for the big boat race on Saturday. Rusty piloted “SYL” as Matt and Ted trimmed sails and all discussed the best way to rig the jib for race day. When we were satisfied with our practice, we returned to the harbor planning what dessert to make for the “baking underway” part the race. Yes, there are subcategories of “Best Dessert Baked Underway”, “Longest Fish Caught Underway”, and “Best Photograph Taken Underway” in the Regatta race.

By the time we were back aboard Kaleo, it was time for dinner, showers and winding down for the night.

George Town, Bahamas

Our last day in Farmers Cay was spent dinghy exploring and lobster hunting. The hunting party was unsuccessful in finding lobster but we did find a huge starfish and lots of sand dollars.

Matt just up from checking a coral head for dinner

An early Wednesday morning had us heading for George Town with most of the time spent motoring into light headwinds. The fishing line was out but again the sea would not give up her bounty.

Arriving in Elizabeth Harbour, George Town, the landscape was dotted with hundreds of masts gently swaying with the ocean swell. The sheer volume of boats and radio traffic was a sure sign that we had arrived.

Our welcome sign from the dinghy dock

George Town is a fabled place for cruisers; a stop for all on the route south and in fact, the final stop for many. It offers great provisioning, free water, lots of marine services, restaurants, an airport and the chance to gather with hundreds of fellow cruisers. With all these amenities comes a different pace from what we’ve experienced while cruising. With different events and activities planned all-day, every day, and over 250 boats in the harbor, GT lives up to its nickname of “summer camp for cruisers.”

Kaleo pulled into the harbor just in time for the 31st Annual Cruising Regatta, a two-week long series of boat races, beach bashes, creative competitions like the Dinghy Poker Run (aka: crisscrossing-harbor-dinghy-pub-crawl) and the infamous Coconut Challenge (more to come on this as we compete), as well as volleyball-, golf-, Bocce Ball-, Ultra Trivial Pursuit- and Texas Hold ‘Em-tournaments. There’s even Tug of War on the beach, a Dance Party with Rockin’ Ron, and a Variety Show (I immediately think “Dirty Dancing” here). In a nut shell, it’s action-packed Adults’ Field Day. Every day. With enough events packed in to make our land-life schedules look downright geriatric.

Our arrival into GT, along with “Storyville” and “Anchor Management” meant the entire “Texas Navy” had been reunited. Just in the few days leading up to the kick-off of the Regatta, we’ve already …

  • Enjoyed a dinner out with Steve at the Chat N’ Chill on Volleyball Beach for our first night in town. Two full plates of ribs, slaw and fries satiated our need to not dirty our own dishes and Matt’s red meat cravings. After dusk, Rusty projected “Pirates of the Caribbean” on his sail near the beach where we, and many other cruisers, enjoyed the open-air movie.
  • Explored the “town” part of George Town on Thursday. After walking around a bit, we stepped into the Exuma Market and were giddy at the sight of so much fresh produce and natural foods. Exuma Market is a fully-stocked grocery store that clearly caters to the cruising crowd with its wide-ranging selections and ideal location directly next to the dinghy dock. After a full cart of shopping, we loaded up the dinghy with groceries and headed back to enjoy the bounty. We’re most excited about finding organic spinach and other brightly-colored veggies, all-natural tortilla chips and organic salsas, ground turkey, flat breads, Tika Masala and Pad Thai sauces, and even some high fructose-free cereal.

“Almost” as beautiful to us as the beaches we live on

  • Met up with Mike and Rebecca of “Zero to Cruising“, fellow cruisers and bloggers who we’ve kept in touch with as both boats prepared and journeyed south. They’ve been in GT for a little while so they generous shared the scoop on where to be for the beach parties each evening as well as where to find whatever we may need during our stay.
  • Celebrated the return of Linda and arrival of her daughter, Erin, aboard “SYL” on Friday afternoon. We joined Rusty in picking them up from town after their flight arrived. Seeing Linda was like being reunited with a long-lost friend and we were delighted to finally meet Erin. The evening festivities started with mild intensions on Storyville, then quickly kicked into high-gear as the Navy migrated to “SYL”, then to “Guiding Light”, then back to “Storyville” for what turned into the start of “24-Hours-of-Steve” in honor of his upcoming birthday. Though it wasn’t until Sunday, the celebration of all-things-Steve started on Friday night with some entertaining choreography (“The George Town Stance” and “The Bosun Chair Bop”) by the captain of “Kaleo” to the beat of “I’m on a Boat,” of course while wearing our flippy-floppies and swim trunks.
  • Took it easy on Saturday morning before heading over to Monument Beach for afternoon yoga and retired early with a movie at home.
  • Attended Beach Church on Sunday morning under the shade trees with cooling sand between our toes. A fellow cruiser gave a nice “sermonette” on opening our eyes and hearts to people we might not normally interact with, much as Jesus did with the tax collector in Luke 19:9. Beach Church is an official church with a statement of faith, pastor and volunteer choir, in which Rusty from “SYL” shares his talented voice. Though the music and style made us thankful for our more contemporary Fellowship Church, it was a blessing to have corporate worship with other Christian cruisers in such a relaxed tropical enviroment.

Heading to Beach Church

  • Stretched our bodies and our definition of a beautiful yoga studio when Erin (a certified yoga instructor in the States) taught yoga at the Kevalli House. The class was held under private pavilion overlooking the glorious Exuma Sound, with palm trees swaying and ocean waves crashing on the cliffs below.

Christie and Erin concentrating on a balance pose

Erin’s Kevalli House yoga class

  • Celebrated Steve’s birthday with a Tex-Mex fiesta potluck aboard “SYL” on Sunday evening. Linda made taco soup, Deana prepared chicken enchiladas with homemade tortillas and sopapilla cheesecake, Mili from “Morning Glory” whipped up corn salsa salad, and “Kaleo” cooked up some turkey tacos. Everyone left stuffed and thankful that Steve gave us a reason to get together.

Tomorrow kicks off the Cruising Regatta with Registration Day and we have plans to team up with the Navy to enter a few events. More to come as the events unfold.

N 23° 31.19 / W 75° 45.53

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