George Town & the National Family Regatta

We reluctantly left the Ragged Islands and headed back up to George Town in order to attend the Annual Family Regatta. Don’t get me wrong, no one dragged us out of the Ragged Islands. We willfully headed north because the Family Regatta is fun, interesting, and if the wind blows it can be exciting!

Since 1954, this annual event of traditional Bahamian sloop sailing takes place in George Town’s Elizabeth Harbour during the last full week of April.  It is the oldest and largest wooden boat racing in The Bahamas and attracts the best sailors from all of the islands to compete to be the best in their class. The competition is intense, but in traditional Bahamian style, the participants turn the event in to a wild three day party and the racing and partying should not be missed!

George Town is one of the most popular cruising destinations in the Bahamas. In peak season, there will often be 500-800 boats anchored in Elizabeth Harbour. The town of George Town has several good restaurants and there is an excellent grocery store that provides a dinghy dock, making it easy to get ashore. George Town also has an airport that offers multiple flights to/from the US per day, including several direct flights.

The islands that make up the east side of the bay provide decent anchoring with protection from the prevailing east winds, but if the wind goes south through west to north, you’ll want to find another place to avoid the inevitable wind swell. Located on Stocking Island, the famous “Chat-n-Chill” restaurant/bar is an important gathering place for the cruising community. The cruisers that make Georgetown their home during the winter season organize regular activities that all are welcome to participate in. Volley ball, water aerobics, poker tournaments, beach yoga, and Sunday Church Services are just a few of the weekly activities that you can enjoy, if you’re so inclined.

As much as George Town has to offer cruisers, Michelle and I aren’t big fans of George Town. We don’t like the crowded anchorages or the “tourist resort” vibe of the place. And the rules! You can’t put so many boats in a small area without someone feeling the need to create rules for everything! As a result we try to avoid going to George Town unless we need to re-provision OR to attend the Family Regatta.

Roam leaving the Raggeds and heading back up to George Town.
The races start with the participants at anchor. When the start gun goes off, they pull up the anchor as quickly as possible, while simultaneously raising the sails. This type of start causes some intense moments as the crews work to get underway and avoid running in to each other.
Once underway, the crew climbs out on “Pry Boards” to counteract the force of the wind and hold the boats more level.
The Bahamians seem to be fine with spectators being right in the middle of the action – you just have to be ready to move quickly and get yelled at if you don’t!
Our friend Marty Kelly (Manta 42 – “True Colors”) is waiting for the action to return to him rather than chasing the boats around the course — he’s a obviously a well seasoned cruiser!
Through our friends Mark and Michele (Manta 40 “Reach”), we’ve made friends with the captain and crew on “New Legend” from Long Island. It’s great to have a team to route for and these guys really had their boat moving fast this year!
The crew of New Legend from Long Island.
And the winner of the 2019 National Family Regatta is…NEW LEGEND!!!!
On shore, the celebrations go on until almost dawn every day, making for some interesting races early the next day! This is the Bahamas National Police Band performing for the governor (and us…). Their routine is part music and part dance – but 100% entertaining.
Back on Roam, we had a few days of rain and wind, but for the most part, the weather was perfect for spectating. This picture was taken by Marty Kelly.

Next up: We return to Key West via the Old Bahama Channel

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