14/03/2010/3:13 pm, Little Farmer's Cay
Another fine day! Aiden returned our dinghy with the motor all fixed and stayed for a soda and a visit. This is the first time we've met him, although we've heard others speak very highly of him. Although his primary occupation is fisherman, Aiden is the local government representative on the council that manages the area from Highborne in the North to Bock Cay in the South. There is one rep from here, one from Staniel Cay and three from Black Point, each elected for a three year term. He likes it and says it has opened his eyes to the complexities of getting things accomplished and the importance of working together for the common good of all three communities. We really enjoyed talking with him, and he was very curious about the way we do things in Canada, a fellow Commonwealth country.
As soon as Jim returned Aiden to the dock, we hopped into Solitaire's dinghy and along with Kolibrie headed off south past Hattie Cay to Little Galliot, and then west to where the shoal should be. For the longest time, we wondered if it was imaginary. Then we started to see a line of white and for the next longest time, we wondered if it was in Florida as we grew sloooooowly closer to it until we could see a great long, high, S shaped curve of sandbar. We never knew this existed because we never travel this way (The charts with their magenta lines do not cover a route out here, and we can see why!) We got there about 2 and left around 4 and there was still sand showing.
With the dinghies beached and plastic bags clutched in our hands, we spread out to explore, dig, and collect. (On second thought, it was only the women who carried bags - does that mean we were greedier, more optimistic or, simply more prepared than the men?) We each found some lovely shells - angular tritons, sunrise tellins, milk conchs, sand dollars and small king helmets among them. It was like finding Brigadoon - that mysterious village in musical theatre - except this appears every day, and even though it is a significant shoal from which we could still see Little Farmer's, none of us knew where it was and it can't be seen from the Cay. We heard that David Copperfield, who owns Musha Cay threw a grand party here once, and it is sometimes used for weddings. (I hope the longeveity of the marriage is greater than the place of the ceremony!)
It was altogether a glorious afternoon of sun, sand, water and fresh air, to say nothing of new specimens for our collections.
Happy hour was on board Kolibrie - such fun for us to be on a sister ship - and we enjoyed more delicious appetizers and, along with our dark'n'stormies, a taste of a very smooth Mojito rum (with lime and mint) from Pat and Wayne's cupboard, as we celebrated sundown of another fine day.
13/03/2010/3:10 pm, Little Farmer's Cay
Despite the wind - that blew Winfield Lash and Kolibrie off their moorings on two successive nights - we've been having a good time here. We all have anchors out now, in addition to mooring lines, and are more confident that we'll stay where we should.
Pat (Kolibri), Marge (Winfield Lash) and I went for a "women only" ramble around the island on Friday, shelling, sightseeing, and sharing our experiences of the cruising life. We didn't find too much in the way of beautiful shells, but the looking is always fun, and walking straight down the middle of the runway at the airport was a bit of a lark. We did keep our ears tuned and eyes alert for approaching planes! When we first entertained the idea of going cruising, Eileen Quinn told me that I'd find it important to be able to go off on my own from time to time, and all three of us agreed that it is true. Sometimes we need more space than 36x12 feet allows; sometimes we need to make decisions without consultation; sometimes we want to do something our partners are not interested in; sometimes we are fed up with the company at home and need an alternative!! We walked the whole length of the island, stopping at the Yacht Club at the north end for a cool drink, and at Brenda's kitchen for some bread ($4 per loaf).
Evening found us all, along with Paula and Larry (Lapidus) and Oskar (Eden Rock on Big Farmer's Cay) aboard Solitaire for happy hour. The lovely big cockpit of their Morgan 41 was a full and happy place for a few hours. Oskar showed us on the chart where to look for shells and we made plans to explore. Lapidus related their happy experience of having a cruiser make a special trip here on his way north to deliver a part for their engine. It had been on the mailboat but didn't get dropped off until Lee Stocking so Nike kindly acted as deliveryman. The array of foods was excellent too - artichoke/goat cheese dip, dragon's breath cheese from Nova Scotia, fresh and crunchy nuts, juicy purple grapes, smoky sausage along with assorted crackers and chips, and all washed down with sodas, beer, wine or rum drinks according to what we each had in our little carrying bags. I love the happy hour practice here - bring a drink and some food to share. It makes getting together so easy!
The front moved through here at midmorning on Saturday, bringing a 10 degrees F drop in temperature, a 70 degree swing of the boat and some showers over the course of an hour or so. I spent the morning weaving some of the palm fronds I collected on Big Farmer's Cay, and Jim finished reading Ken Follet's "Pillars of the Earth".
By afternoon, the sun had appeared and we were ready for a trip to town. Jeffery called across from the beach where he was cleaning fish and we dinghied over to see what he had. For $20 we got a couple of groupers, a grunt (all filleted) and a good sized lobster tail. Jeffery was our fish supplier when we were here last time and it was good to connect with him again, both for his fresh fish and because we enjoy chatting with him. He also went over the directions for making stewfish for me. I can find it in books, but I like the idea of getting the method from the guy who catches 'em!
At the waterfront in town - a tiny little curve in the harbour with a cluster of buildings and some tables for eating, drinking and playing dominoes - we picked up a couple of Kaliks at Ali's smallest bar in the world. It really is tiny - three stools, a bar, a cooler of beer and a wall of rum bottles. It's painted bright yellow and green and the always genial Ali welcomes all comers. We then ordered delicious conch fritters ($2 per order) from his wife, Brenda, at her kitchen around the corner, and sat in the sun to enjoy the breeze from the water, the laughter of school boys hanging out together and the slap of dominoes from a nearby table.
When I wandered by the domino table near the bar, intending to watch for a bit, Nick got up and insisted that I take his seat, with the advice that I could learn more from playing than from watching. These fellows, Ali, Stanley and Ramon (with the r rolled, please!) play a fast-paced, straightforward game. 7 tiles each, first one out wins, winner starts the next game with whatever tile he wants. I laughed and laughed, because I could hardly count as fast as they could, let alone keep track of what tiles were out, plan strategy and keep Stanley from seeing what I was holding. Barry kept warning me and trying to show me how to hold them (and they don't line them up on the table, they hold them in their hands) but I never did accomplish it. They were such good sports for welcoming me into their game.
Solitaire Jim introduced Madcap Jim to Aiden, who agreed to fix our Mercury outboard motor. In "non-mechanic" language, something slipped inside so that the gears didn't shift properly. He took it apart, fixed it and got it idling at a slower speed too.
Dinner on Saturday night was panfried Nassau grouper with boiled potatoes and broccoli salad. Mmmmm. What a fine day!
12/03/2010/3:07 pm, Little Farmer's Cay
Going out to dinner in the Bahamas can be a little different from the way it is in Halifax.
We got dressed up - that means in clean shorts and shirt for Jim and a quick dry skirt and top for me. (Sometimes dressing up means frills and more elegant jewellry.) Guests arrived for predinner drinks in their dinghies, which are like the family cars back home. Our 6 guests then climbed up the side of our "home" and over the edge of the deck to take their seats on the benches around the table. (tight skirts just wouldn't cut it!)
When it was time to leave for the restaurant, some climbed into their "vehicles" and drove all the way there, while others decided to drive a shorter route and walk the rest of the way. We were among the latter, and 4 of us climbed down the side of our home again, stepped into our "vehicle" and headed for the beach where we hopped out into shallow water and pulled the "vehicle" ashore, tying a line around a tree and making sure it was pulled up far enough to stay dry while we were gone. We got only a little wet, and thanks to the quick-dry fabrics we dried off as we walked.
It was still light enough to see where we were going and before long we had walked around the corner and down the hill to the head of the bay where we waved to friends and headed up another hill to Ocean Cabin. Just before dinner, we paid a visit to the little store on the property to see what the mail boat brought in. I picked out a tomato, a red pepper, a half pound of butter and 12 oz of cheese. We weighed the produce on the countertop scale, looked up the prices on the list posted on the fridge, wrote them in the ledger under the names of our boats, added up the prices and put the money in a box. ($7.00 for me) Nancy (as a sometimes helper for Ocean Cabin) put the money away and locked the door behind us.
Back at the dining room, 7 of us sat down to dinner at one long table and proceeded to enjoy the offerings of Ernestine's kitchen. As is the custom here, we chose what we wanted to eat when we made our reservations earlier in the day. Jim had lobster and I had grouper, both accompanied by peas'n'rice and cole slaw. Jim's lobster was a good size - tail only because these tropical spiny lobsters have no claws - and was served in the shell after being baked with butter and lemon. My grouper was steamed and topped with a spicy onion and pepper medley. Both were delicious. We shared a bottle of white wine with friends and it was pretty bad. I'd forgotten that beer is the best choice at bars here.
Once the eating part was over, Ernestine emerged from the kitchen to sit and chat with us, Terry produced copies of the Little Farmer's Cay song and turned on the music, and we all sang enthusiastically.
At the end of the evening, we headed back up the road in the pitch dark (few streetlights here), flashlights in our pockets until we started down Jeffery's conch shell lined path to the beach again. Once there, we picked our way by flashlight up the beach until we could see our "vehicle" still parked safely on the rocks. Because the surf was rolling in, we all got soaked getting it turned around and into the water far enough to get the motor down. The waves were crashing up against us as 3 of us waded out to knee-deep water and then crawled over the side while Jim tried to get the engine going without taking off too fast (it has a little problem right now and only starts in forward gear, meaning that one has to be ready to fly off quickly!) I think we probably got just as wet as those who travelled back bucking waves all the way, but it lasted a shorter time.
Once back home, we tied up the dinghy, climbed aboard, stripped off all our clothes in the cockpit and laughed at how our evening-out finery still gets relegated to the floor in a soggy heap just like our daytime wear. Once inside we heated water in the kettle to wipe the salt off our bodies before climbing into bed.
You know you're in the Bahamas when you take your clothes off on the front porch (and sometimes shower there too) before entering your abode!