Just da thing, mon
02 February 2013 | Nasdsau Bahamas
Captain / Very, very hot 90 F.
Nassau is just not a town where tourists come to relax at Sandals, shop for trinkets at the straw market, or jewellery along downtown Bay Street, where at anytime there are thousands of picture taking, sunburned, sidewalk blockers, who were dispensed from the mighty cruise ships, parked four deep at any one time; every day.
This morning we rose early hoping to leave just after daybreak for the Exumas after spending the last five days at a dock waiting for the perfect window to cross the Yellow Bank. The reason for wanting clear weather is this will be our first encounter with coral heads. No guessing what would happen if we were unfortunate enough to strike one of those. This area is strewn with wrecks to prove although the pristine water is perfect for some of the best cruising in the world, it also provides just enough obstacles to keep you on your toes and wide awake. One slip and you pay.
Seven or eight boats get ready to leave at the same time, but Chances has decided she hasn’t seen enough of Nassau. Rather than sailing out early I spent the morning head-first inside the engine compartment changing the electric fuel priming pump which Serendipity, one of our cruising buddy boats had as a spare. The space was so small that toy wrenches could hardly fit in there and the two bolts holding the pump, on had so much rust on them, it became clear to me, in my delusional state, that one of Christopher Columbus’ crew must have installed it. The temperature in Nassau today was expected to reach the high eighties today, January 31st. At 8:00 AM this morning inside that engine compartment it felt like 100 F. It took until noon and 43 new words, one for each time a wrench slipped and I hit my knuckles and loss of gallons of body fluids though my pores to get the old one off, the new one on, the filters changed, and the airlocks out of the system. It became clear by then; we would not be crossing the Yellow Bank today. All the other boats had left, although Heritage, who had turned around to see if they could help, had to be coaxed to leave us behind.
So what to do? Advise the marina that we would be staying at least another night. Sign here please!
After drinking the well dry and a light snack I dragged out my trusty little folding bike and made off to the marine store to buy a new pump and restock the fuel filters. Sold the last one like that just yesterday and not sure when the new order will arrive but “it will git here sometime mon. No hurry”.
The reason for telling you this is not to relay what a bad start to our day was but the adventure the day turned out to be. I learned enough about human beings today than I really thought I had to know. I learned of how a different culture works even though they are on island time. And I learned it on a folding bicycle.
After finding out the last pump was sold until who knows when, the lady at the counter who knew all things mechanical especially pumps and filters, said to try at Bayshore Garage just up the street in the first narrow lane past the bridge. There are two bridges so I asked her which one. She wasn’t sure but it was after one of them. Apparently I couldn’t miss it. When I got there I wasn’t sure of what I couldn’t miss; the bridge, the narrow lane, or the garage. The bridge I could see so it had to be close. There was a group of guys standing by and sitting on the curb at the street corner in front of a “refreshment stand” and every one of them had a beer or some other drink. Some were road construction workers; some were in sleeveless white undershirts, with big colourful striped wool hats on their heads, but everyone of them were talking a blue streak in a language of heavy accented English (?). It appeared like a dozen different arguments were going on at the same time, with everyone talking and laughing. I asked no one in particular if anyone knew where Bayshore Garage was. All the arguments stopped and it appeared that this was the most important question any of them was asked today. One guy asked me what they could help me with “and why wasn’t I in school, young man?” Every one of them had an opinion on where it might be and the best way to get there. All were vying with each other to take their advice. I did bike around the cemetery, through the Scotia bank parking lot, until I spotted the narrow lane.
Although that garage didn’t have the part and could only recommend the IDS store who might have it but it was a couple of miles away. It turned out to be 3 ½ miles. The directions were miniscule. On the way I asked a number of people but one in particular stood out. An older man with a sunken face and poorly dressed, but clean, pointed me in the right direction. Proud to be able to help he smiled with all of his seven teeth showing. The three on the top almost fit perfectly in the slots on the bottom where the except for the four teeth, all the rest were missing.
He is typical of the ordinary citizen of this town. It appears that half the population is standing idle along buildings that front on sidewalks that would be difficult for a mule to walk along. Mostly men of all ages, just standing around, hanging out. Yet there are thousands of cars zooming down narrow streets, going the “wrong” way. This was an English colony so they drive on the opposite side of the road. They are constantly honking their horns either to ask for a break to thank each other for getting one. If you pull out into traffic you honk to ask to get in then another honk to say thanks. If we try to cross the street in front of our marina to go to Starbucks (free WiFi) it requires taking your life in your hands to avoid cars speeding by. They almost seem to speed up if they see someone crossing.
Some things I learned while driving my bike to pick up the new fuel pump:
Never drive a bike on any street in Nassau. However it is more dangerous to drive on the sidewalk, if there is a sidewalk.
Don’t drive a bike in Nassau. Cars use you for target practise.
Try to get clear directions on where to go if you can understand the accented directions.
Never believe that it is just ahead there. There is nothing just ahead. It is miles away.
Ask anyone for directions. These people are the friendliest people on earth, even when they look like a gang standing in groups. They love to help.
Never visit a dentist in Nassau. You will leave his office with a lot less teeth than you went in with.
Everything here is “just da ting, mon” Believe it. Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow.
I love these people.