In Town and Out
20 January 2008 | Marsh Harbour
Beth - Weather: 82 F, humid, sunny, winds: SE 10-15kn building to SW25-30 Sunday night
We've been moving back and forth in the Sea of Abaco, and from harbour to outside anchorage and back to harbour again.
On Wednesday, in Hope Town, we hung out at the Coffee Shop till they (very politely) kicked us out at 1 when they close for a couple of hours. Having consumed several cups of coffee and some of their delicious quiche, we felt ready to cut the internet ties and do some more exploring. We went off to the Wyannie Malone Museum where we watched a most interesting little documentary on the Abaco cays and wandered through the exhibits.
One of the most interesting things we discovered involved the lighthouse and an important way the islanders earned their living back in the late 1800's. They were engaged in the frequently lucrative practice of "wrecking", or "wracking" as it is often called. When ships foundered on the reefs, the islanders swung into gear to salvage everything they could. One notice we read said that their first priority was saving the souls onboard, but they then stripped everything possible from the wrecks and burned the rest so that there would be no visible sign of the reef that would deter other ships from approaching. Enterprising folks, these hardy Loyalists! You can imagine that they were not at all interested in having a lighthouse built. Attitudes change over the passage of time, and now the Elbow Cay light is a landmark and source of pride.
In another neat little bit of synchronicity, we walked past the school and stopped to peer in the windows. A woman appeared and invited us to come in and have a look in the classrooms. It turned out that Laura is a sister of Jeffery, the lightkeeper. Laura was just as warm and friendly as her brother, and just as generous with her time.
There are 64 children at this K- Grade 6 school. I have to say that I was surprised at the rush of emotion I experienced when we went into the kindergarten classroom. It looked exactly like the ones back home - those I've worked in and those I've been a parent in. Laura said they are always looking for volunteers to help the immigrant Haitian children with their English language skills, and for qualified teachers. It would be a really interesting opportunity for a person to move down here and teach for a while - not me at this time in my life though because I like to keep the water moving under my keel!
Laura confirmed for us that many of the Hope Town residents have sold their properties and moved further down island or over to Marsh Harbour, commuting to work here. It seems to have been an economic decision - tourism is the number one industry here, and the tourists like these pretty houses surrounding the harbour.
We had a lovely visit with Will and Muffin on Antares to end the evening, and then on Thursday, we moved further south to anchor just north of Baker's Rock at Tahiti Beach.
This was a beautiful little stop for two nights, and it felt great to have wide-open space all around us. It was quite windy when we stopped but there was just enough protection from the southeast and lots from the east so we were comfortable. The wind direction changed during the night and when we swam over the anchor the next morning, we could see the chain stretched out straight so we knew it had been working to hold us in place. The CQR was tipped on its side and Jim dove down to shove it into the sand a little better.
We dinghied to the beach in the morning and had fun strolling over the huge sandbar. It reminded us a bit of the gorgeous bars of the Northumberland Strait back home in Nova Scotia - much smaller but with the same play value. Although you'd have to trade the image of wafting palm trees and white sand for huge expanse of red sand, the feeling was the same. I heard some young children calling, "Grammie! Come on!" and did a flashback to Mary Beth, Liam and Alex saying those very words during the vacations we spent at the Lusby family cottage.
An industrious urge overcame us in the afternoon and we each made good progress on our chosen projects. Jim finished his repairs of our bowsprit, and I cleaned a whole lot of rust off our swim ladder and the bottoms of the stanchions on deck. (West Marine's Rust Stainsaway and a paste product called Cleanz All are our products of choice for this at the moment.)
I finished reading the memoir of Randolph Johnston - Artist on his Island: A Study in Self-Reliance. It's a good read - about the sculptor who moved his family to Little Harbour back in the 1950's in order to raise fine, competent boys and get away from the Megamachine of contemporary America. (I loaned out the book and will have to look up the exact quotation later). I found it interesting that he lived in Toronto for a time and railed on about rules there as well. Jim says he must have been hell to deal with - but his life story is an interesting one. One son, Pete (also an artist), started the famed Pete's Pub at Little Harbour. The life of the Johnston family in those early days was a tough one - they sure didn't move to an idyllic life of sun, sand and art. They worked hard to earn a living, chartering out their boat, laboriously building houses and studios, and Randolph and Margot were able to really turn to art again only after the boys were grown. We'll make a stop there on our way south - to see the foundry and gallery, and to raise a pint at the pub.
Early on Saturday, we raised the anchor and headed back to Marsh Harbour. Our laundry bags were overflowing and we had pretty well exhausted our fresh produce supply. Also, the weather forecast called for some strong winds coming in. Our choice in a big blow is not necessarily a crowded harbour, but Marsh Harbour is the best place in the area to do the "jobs" and we figured we might leave again as soon as they were done. As we entered the harbour, we were delighted to see many familiar boats; Sapphire (last seen back in Florida), Stout Wench and Jabiru (Black Sound on Green Turtle Cay), Ketch'n Dreams (Sugar Loaf Cay) as well as Kilissa, Princess, Te Amor, and Windswept, last seen here in Marsh Harbour. The harbour was much more full than last week - lots of boats moving in for protection, and we decided to stay among them. Interestingly, there are 4 Bayfields here: Sapphire (a 40' ketch), and 3 36 footers - Celebrian, Madcap and a new one with a green hull - Zancada.
We trundled a gigantic load of laundry to the well-equipped Laundromat - filled with many other folks with gigantic loads. ($2.00 in quarters per wash load and 2 minutes per quarter for dryers (30 minutes was enough and the dryers were big). The procedure is to find someone whose load is nearly finished and stand there ready to pop in the dirty clothes just as soon as (s)he pulls the first load out - and both men and women were here doing the washing. Hmmm - now that I think about it though - the laundry men were all local. Cruising men dropped in and out, helping to carry the loads, but disappeared while the agitating and spinning was going on. Is that just the way our shore duties have worked out? Were the men single and doing their own wash just as they would back in Canada, while the cruisers are mostly in couples? If I find myself in need of entertainment next time, I'll analyze the clothes going in those washing machines. As for us, Jim handled the hardware store and the liquor store, and the purchase of gas and water. I missed a humourous incident this time - picture him trying to haul the dinghy out from under the pier, grab an oar that came loose, get from ladder into dinghy and ending up with feet one place, hands another and backside in the drink! No harm done - except to his pride! After the clean clothes were ferried back to the boat, we loaded up on groceries. Maxwell's has everything a person could need so we restocked the fridge with veggies, cheese and meats.
There was time for a quick cleanup of the boat, some prep of hors d'oeuvres, and we were ready to welcome visitors for Happy Hour. Steve and Sandi (Princess), Kathy and Mike (Sapphire) and new friends Bob and Jan (English Rose) dinghied over to join us for a couple of hours of animated conversation. These cockpit parties are just the finest way to get to know people, learn from their experiences, share ours, and have profound discussions on life in our times. (Of course that part depends on how many rum punches we've consumed!)