Georgetown: End of the Trail - Sail Magazine

Georgetown: End of the Trail

Author:
Publish date:
A peaceful sunset in Georgetown

A peaceful sunset in Georgetown

I remember once hearing someone refer to Georgetown as “Trail’s End Harbor,” because it’s as close to the Lesser Antilles as many U.S. and Canadian cruisers ever get.

Not surprising, really. It’s relatively easy to bring a boat this far, playing the wind shifts and weather systems, island hopping all the way. But to continue southeast and east from here mariners face the full brunt of the trade winds. Powerful, relentless and—if you’re heading for the Lesser Antilles, right on the nose—they will quickly teach anyone brazen enough to oppose them the true meaning of “beating” to windward.

Few among the complacent Georgetown fleet ever attempt it. Even fewer seem inclined to take the “delivery skipper’s” route offshore, which takes you east-northeast into the Atlantic Ocean until the Virgin Islands or St. Martin, when you bear due south across the trades, rather than into them. So every year Georgetown on Great Exuma Island in the Bahamas becomes the end of the line for hundreds of boaters. But ... then they discover that’s not such a bad thing.

For one thing, it’s safe. There’s no crime that I’ve heard of—few bother to lock their dinghies or even their boats—and the various harbors and roadsteads, if used judiciously, can provide at least adequate protection from any wind direction. Also, like all of the Exumas it is pristine, with white sand beaches galore. Clear water and good snorkeling are just a dinghy ride away.

Above all, Georgetown is unique, alluringly, captivatingly convenient, offering a host of facilities in a region where they are otherwise almost non-existent. Here sailors enjoy well-stocked grocery stores carrying many of the foods they’re used to back home. Shops, services, and eateries abound. You can get gasoline, diesel, propane and parts. Perhaps most important in this day-in-age, Wi-Fi. Heck, there are even two full-service banks.

The local clinic has a doctor available three or four days a week if you don’t mind waiting your turn, and a well-stocked pharmacy a mile up the road fills prescriptions. There is even free, potable desalinated water at Exuma Market’s well-maintained floating dinghy dock. The island of Great Exuma also boasts a busy, efficient international airport, making it easy for friends and family to visit, and sailors to scoot home to the States if they need to.

To me, though, the most striking and appealing thing about this place is the unfeigned friendliness of the locals. I’ve traveled a good bit in my life and I can’t recall a warmer, more open, considerate and sincerely welcoming people—anywhere. That holds true for all of the Exumas, but it’s especially evident here.

Georgetown is so enticing that dozens, if not scores, of the 200-odd live-aboard cruising boats that you’ll find here mid-winter return year after year, some every year for the past decade or two. This is their paradise and they have fine-tuned it to suit their native suburban tastes. The daily morning Cruisers’ Net on VHF channel 72 reveals the depth of their entrenchment. The net keeps this sprawling, floating community informed about what’s going on, from new arrivals and departures to buy-sell-trade announcements and where-to-find queries to local business’ specials of the day. Volleyball tournaments, water aerobics and yoga classes on the beach, ladies’ luncheons at a local church, volunteer guest speakers—the activities list reads like an upscale summer camp for active retirees.

These are mostly American and Canadian “snowbirds,” as many call themselves, migrating this far south (and no farther) each winter, and then north again every summer, having fun and glad to be here. Trail’s End Harbor? For many, yes, but for them, it’s obviously a happy ending.

Photos courtesy of Tor Pinney

October 2016

Related

SWTR005_SWJK022

MPX Pro Offshore Jacket

Heavy Duty JacketMusto’s new MPX Pro Offshore Jacket features the same waterproof, breathable three-layer Gore-Tex fabric as its predecessors, but weighs 15 percent less. Changes to the hood make it easier to adjust and the fleece-lined collar and hood pod provide both warmth and ...read more

2018-BestBoatNominees

Best Boats Nominees 2019

As we approach the upcoming fall boat shows, perhaps the best word to describe the boatbuilding industry’s latest crop of new designs is “consolidation.” Specifically, in recent months we’ve seen a number of innovations introduced in years past continue to work their way up and ...read more

9781472947666

Book Review: The Atlantic Crossing Guide

Jane Russell & the RCC Pilotage FoundationIf you have a yen for sailing across the Pond to explore the delights of Northern Europe or the Mediterranean, you’d best do some homework first. There’s no better primer than this weighty tome, now in its 7th edition. It’s crammed with ...read more

shutterstock_63705382

Raytech Gelbox Line

Well GelledEvery so often you run across a product you never knew you needed, and then you wonder why it took so long for someone to come up with it. Thus it is with the Gelbox line from Raytech. These reuseable plastic boxes for low-voltage connectors are filled with gel, so ...read more

shutterstock_295810247

Cruising: Nova Scotia’s Bras d’Or Lake

I have rarely had a cruise that wasn’t different from my expectations, and my Nova Scotia travels have borne that out. For my friend and shipmate, Steve White, and me, our 2017 trip to Cape Breton Island and the Bras d’Or Lake on One Timer, my Sabre 362, was a much anticipated ...read more

ElanGT5-a

Boat Review: Elan GT5

Aboard many modern yachts, it can be hard to remember exactly what boat you’re on until your eye happens to light upon a logo. However, this is most definitely not the case with the Elan GT5, a performance cruiser with a look all its own and style to burn.Design & ...read more

01-Lead-P1060210

Handheld VHF Radios

For many sailors, cell phones have become their primary means of both ship-to-shore and ship-to-ship communication. Even the Coast Guard will often ask for a cell number after it receives a distress call. None of this, however, makes a VHF radio any less important—and this goes ...read more

Seascape24

Boat Review: Seascape 24

Since its inception in 2008, Slovenian builder Seascape, founded by a pair of Mini Transat sailors, has focused solely on creating boats that are both simple and loads of fun to sail. With their 18-footer and then a 27-footer they succeeded in putting out a pair of trailerable ...read more