Every year here in Exuma we watch a community of sailboats grow in our picturesque islands. Many are known as snow birds and they bring their boats to Exuma to escape the bitter winter weather in their home area.
The migration starts around November as we see a trickle of boats enter into Elizabeth Harbour and drop anchor in one of the many perfect locations that offer access to the soft sand beaches and protection from the prevailing wind.
Elizabeth Harbour is a beautiful area extending some 7 to 8 miles East to West and around a mile North to South. The southern shore is Great Exuma, the main island. The northern shore is a string of islands starting with Stocking Island at the western end, followed by Elizabeth Cay, then Guana Cay and finally Fowl Cay at the eastern end. So this Harbour is both large and well protected from the Ocean swells.
Inside the Harbour area are more small islands so during their stay in Elizabeth Harbour, which can vary from a few weeks to maybe 6 months, the boats can change their anchorage and their surroundings based on changes in the weather and the pure desire to change their setting.
Who is on these boats? Well it is a real mixture of solo sailors, many couples, and some families with children. The majority have travelled from Northern America and Canada.
The boats they are living aboard also vary from sailboats ranging from the 30ft to 60ft, some catamarans, mostly monohulls then a few power boats.
As Christmas approaches the numbers continue to increase, until by the New Year the totals are around 400 to 500.
So you are on a sailboat in a beautiful tropical setting, escaping the crappy weather up North, but what are you going to do with yourself each day? Well we can swim, snorkel and scuba in 70 degree water, we can play volleyball each afternoon with your fellow boaters on the four courts on Stocking Island. We can set up groups to play bridge or mahjong.
Each of the boats will have an inflatable run about of 10ft to 15ft that they use as their personal transport to get ashore, go shopping, visit other boats.
At the end of the season, usually starting at Easter, the numbers start to decline as some boats leave to return to the East coast of the US where the boat will be stored for the summer and the owners fly home. Others leave their boats in Elizabeth Harbour when they head home. There are areas in the Harbour where many moorings have been placed ready to accept stored boats. The boats are managed by local boatmen who check the security of the boats, run the electrics to keep the battery charged, and open them occasionally to avoid stale air.
There is another category of boater that I have not mentioned. That is the true cruiser. Usually a couple, sometimes a full family, that are fortunate enough to be able to adopt the cruising lifestyle and travel the world at a leisurely pace (Ah sweet memories !). Not surprisingly you will be able to pick them out by the national flag at their stern.
So there you have a short version of the life on those many boats that visit this boaters paradise.
Why don’t you visit Exuma and experience it for yourself. If you don’t have a boat you could stay with us at Harbour View.