12/02/2010/11:30 am, Fresh Creek, Andros, Bahamas
Oh my goodness - I have so many stories to tell you but Jim and I have been out experiencing them and I have not sat myself down to write.
I will say briefly that we are here in another pretty little Andros spot - a perfectly protected harbour - and are tied to a dock in anticipation of the strong winds coming tonight. We will stay here till Monday and will have wifi I do believe. Those of you who know us and our habits must be just shaking your heads at all the tying up we've been doing. I think its a combination of more "weather", fewer secure places to anchor along here, and a more cautious approach.
Oops - gotta run - lunch time at the cafe up the road and then a visit to the Androsia fabric place. Baskets, and batik and grapefruit and fresh veggies and plentiful free water. That's what Andros is about!
11/02/2010/8:05 am, Morgan's Bluff, Andros
After a day of beach combing (for me) anchor chain storage and windlass switch cleaning (for Jim) and a final gourmet dinner aboard Ramha (for both of us) we decided it was time to move on.
Before I get to that part though, I want to introduce Lee Shalom. We discovered that he is the harbourmaster and the man to see for any questions or needs about Morgan's Bluff. He is mentioned in the Yachtsman's Guide to the Bahamas (name is spelled differently and I don't know which is right, but it is pronounced Shalom so that's how I spelled it!) What a lovely man. He is well travelled, having been with the merchant navy for many years - has been to Vancouver and Montreal and Halifax among many other places. We kept supplying him with our last few cans of Keith's India Pale Ale in return for his kindness.
He brought over a box of delicious grapefruit for Ramha and Madcap to share, and when we raved about the flavour so much, he gave us another box! He hooked up a half mile of water hose so we could fill our tanks directly from the tap instead of lugging it by cans - and at no charge. Along with our water, he gave us information. Andros has a plentiful supply of fresh water and the tankers come to the big wharf in the bay every day to fill up. They carry 3 million gallons of water every day to Nassau. When I asked about paying for it, he said, "No! Water is free. We have it and it is for giving!" Not even Nassau pays for it. I don't know enough about the Bahamian government to know whether there is some other compensation for what the other islands take from here.
We enjoyed a delicious Greek dinner on Ramha with kabobs, roasted potatoes, Greek salad and flat bread with tzatziki. The smell was mouthwatering as we came aboard, and the flavour was just as good. We took a peek at some of Judi's beautiful paintings and look forward to seeing more by the next time we meet.
As we stepped back across to Madcap, we saw the lights of the mailboat coming in. It turned on a dime in the tiny basin, but had quite a bit of difficulty backing up to the ramp. We had wondered how such a long boat could turn in there, but that wasn't the problem. The problem was that it has no thrusters and only a single prop so it kept getting caught by current and had to go back and foward several times and then just creep back to avoid the fishing boats tied up over there. It was something like backing up Madcap - only much longer!
Morning brought a quick photo trip around to see the pallets of goods with recipients' names on them lined up along the roadway, and the piles of boxes filled with grapefruit and cabbage and other produce ready to be loaded. If we'd been here a couple of weeks ago, we'd have seen bales of sponges here too.
Then we were off - out through the entrance to the basin, out through the channel into the bay, around the corner and off on a course to Fresh Creek. We had been told the fuel boat would be in around 8 am so both of us moved off the dock and out of the way early. Ramha planned to go back in later in the day, but we were ready for new sights. (We never did see that fuel boat - I guess we needn't have made such an early start.) Sails went up, engine went off and away we went, looking for the next adventure.
09/02/2010/8:00 pm, Morgan's Bluff, Andros
Tuesday was a day of discovery - in several ways.
After the events of the morning (the good, and the ugly), we finally got ourselves (along with Judi and Alain) into our rental car and set off to explore. First stop was the Pineville Motel - also covered under its own separate heading (first class entrepreneur) after which we travelled on to the packing plant where for the grand total of $14.00, we bought a full box of: 6 big fat tomatoes in various stages of ripeness, a fist full of tiny green and yellow hot peppers, 3 cucumbers, an eggplant, 4 gnarly red sweet potatoes (that are white inside and firm, dry and sweet when cooked), 6 green peppers and 2 leafy green cabbages! It was a big warehouse type place with no packing going on when we were there - just a half dozen folks sitting and chatting. But what a delight to find all this good fresh produce at an affordable price. We are so used to everything costing more in the Bahamas because it pretty much all must be imported. Andros is notable among Bahamian Islands because it has a real agricultural industry. There is fertile ground here and an ample supply of fresh water.
From there, we piled back in the car and headed for Red Bays, the little settlement on the western shore that has a Seminole Indian heritage. We wanted to find the famous baskets made there, and to meet up with Peter, the Spongeman, and we were successful on both counts. As we drove down the road Alain spotted Jim - one of Peter's helpers - so we pulled in and had a very nice little visit there. We learned of wool sponges and grass sponges and silk sponges, and that they regenerate well when they are cut off at the stem, and that they still grow well here. We saw heaps of them in the yard and a bale of them in the press. (We heard later that one of these bales sells for between $5,000 and $10,000!) Peter told us about his family business - Sponges Direct - starting in Greece and then moving to Florida and the Bahamas. His sons operate out of Tarpon Springs, FL while he does the buying here. We looked at this gracious man's family pictures, learning that his wife of 57 years passed on a few years ago and seeing the loneliness in his eyes. He also shared with us his horrific experience after eating barracuda - carrier of the dreaded ciguatera. None of us will never take that warning lightly!
From Peter's place, Valentino - another helper with the most beautiful shy smile - biked along the road to show us where to see and buy baskets. And oh - there were baskets! Vangie and her family members sat on the porch and in the yard weaving baskets and cuddling babies. The baskets are much like the ones we saw the Gullah women making back in South Carolina and I expect the tradition and skill comes from the same roots. I bought a lovely basket for my table - one that will hold fruit or bread or veggies or whatever is needed at the time. If I had room in this floating home, I'd have bought several to take back home because the prices were a fraction of what they'd be in Nassau, and it feels so good to buy directly from the artist.
After a look at "the end of the road" in Red Bays where skiffs floated silently off the shoreline and what looked like weirs made of branches were scattered about, we turned around and aimed our little Nissan toward the Mennonite farm.
Arriving there was like taking a step directly back to the 50's. The men - young and older - were dressed in smart pants and sport shirts - long or short sleeved, hair was short and combed to one side. No tans or sloppiness or grimy ballcaps. Two little boys with their porcelain faces and slim bodies raced around on old fashioned tricycles and bicycles. No women were visible, although we saw a woman wearing a long dress in a yard up the road. It was all business there, the men walking briskly from autoshop to shed to tractor and back. The quiet spoken black man at the produce stand told us that they farm 10 acres and along with the crisp green beans and broccoli that he sold us, he tucked a sample ear of corn in each of our bags, saying that it is a little expensive at $10 per dozen, but it is delicious. Right on both counts!
We had run out of time by then, so we hustled back to Hank's house to return the car. He wasn't there and his wife didn't seem inclined to believe that he had told us he'd take us back to Morgan's Bluff, but in the end she drove us back herself.
The four of us finished this grand day with dinner on Madcap - stew made from chicken (from the freezer), green peppers, tomatoes, those wonderful potatoes, hot peppers, onion and garlic (all except the last two from our purchases today) accompanied by green beans topped with sundried tomatoes and drizzled with olive oil, and accompanied by a tasty cabernet sauvignon named "Red Truck". Seemed fitting!