03/04/2010/4:55 pm, Hog Cay, Jumentos
It is time to properly introduce you to Phicol (Phil) Wallace. This kind and gracious man has been our Guardian Angel here in Ragged Island. Phil and his buddies were in the boat that stopped by in Racoon Cay, to welcome us to the area, collect garbage, and probably to see who we were! It was Phil who said he'd do some checking on finding a new bearing for our Mercury 5 hp outboard motor.
It was Phil who made numerous calls to suppliers in Nassau and Long Island and back to us to report that the part couldn't be located. It was Phil who then made calls to get prices on a new Yamaha 15 to which we had decided to upgrade. It was Phil who put Jim in touch with Shane from Harbourside Marine in Nassau and who came out to Hog Cay on Thursday with the faxed order for Jim to sign, and who then faxed it back to Harbourside Marine in time for the motor to get loaded on the boat that afternoon.
I had wanted so badly to move around to Ragged Island Harbour on Saturday so we could see the mailboat "reach" and take pictures of the event, but the wind direction made that a poor idea. We remained anchored in Hog Cay while I grumbled around Madcap all morning - all my journalistic inclinations thwarted - taking only distant pictures of the Captain C as it came across the banks and passed out of sight behind Hog Cay Point. And then Phil came to the rescue again!
He and Jerard - a mailboat worker - came by ("passed by" in island lingo) to chat while the rest of the crew started unloading. He said he'd go back to pick up our motor when some space had been cleared on the deck of the Captain C. When I asked him if he needed Jim to go with him, he said, "You can both come if you want" and it didn't take two minutes before we were both aboard his boat with "Little Loonie" (our dinghy) tied on behind.
Once at the mailboat, we tied up alongside, (I hopped aboard to take pictures of the crane, the hold, the pallets of goods bound for Ragged Island) and it wasn't long before Phil came across the deck holding a Yamaha 15 outboard motor. He mounted it on the dinghy, hailed Melvin - a crewmwmber - to get some more gas so that we had the right mix of gas and oil in the tank, and then Melvin and Jim took it out for a spin. When Jim kept insisting that we would pay him for his time, his steely-eyed response was, "You don't owe me a thing." Well - we sure owe him plenty of thanks and appreciation!
Before we left Hog Cay on Wednesday, Phil passed by once again, this time to visit with us and to collect our old outboard motor that we wanted to leave with him. We enjoyed a couple of hours of quality time over coffee and scones. We learned that Phil was born here, spent some of his boyhood on Little Farmer's Cay where his mother was the school principal for many years, went to high school and college in Nassau and then decided to move back "home". He is the Chief Councillor of the 5 person Ragged Island Council and at 36, the youngest of them too. He is passionate about encouraging and helping his fellow islanders to manage the changes that are occurring with the financial boost that is providing the enlarged airport, improved streets and the new dock and breakwater. Phil's attitude toward the increased cruising traffic is telling. He wants Duncan Town to provide services - affordable food and drink, a laundry - and he is most emphatic that the relationship between cruisers and locals be one based on friendship and fair dealing rather than just money making.
Phil is the local manager of Bahama Electric Corporation, and also owns and operates Silvertail Fishing Lodge (with its rooms all rented at the moment to the construction crew on the island) and is one of the core group of young entrepreneurs here.
When we come back here - as we surely will - I want to meet his grandma who lives across the street and taught him as a young boy to be careful how his tongue wags, "That little red rag will make you or destroy you!" and who knows Everything about Ragged Island. Phil's wife, Erica, (from Staniel Cay) and his two (and almost three) children were away in Nassau for Easter break so we'll have to wait till next time to meet them too.
By next year, we'll be able to chow down on cheeseburgers and Kaliks at the Silvertail Lodge while we connect with the internet. With luck, this thoughtful and enterprising man will have time to visit with us again and fill us in on what's been happening on Ragged Island. If he is successful in moving vision to reality, things will be happening.
When any of you readers come here, be sure to look up our new friend and Guardian Angel!
02/04/2010/4:51 pm, Hog Cay
Asylum III departed in the wee hours of Thursday morning for the 60 mile trip to Cuba where they'll spend the next couple of weeks. (Oh - we are so close and, being Canadians we can go - but it isn't in our plans for this year so we just had to wish them well and listen to all their tips on travelling there for when we do make it.) Those two intrepid sailors have had some wonderful cruising experiences all through these waters.
Madcap and Reflection set off to Hog Cay and its enticing beaches, and we'd have had a delightful sail except that just as we left South Side Bay, Phil called to say that he hadn't been able to get our motor part anywhere in Nassau or Long Island. Jim and I had decided that if that happened, we'd just accelerate our planned purchase of a new motor - if we could find a good price. As we sailed along, Phil checked prices and called back. We could get a Yamaha 15 - the motor found on the transoms of many dinghies down here - for less than what we'd pay in the states. A flurry of phone calls followed with the result that we had to hurry along to Hog Cay. These arrangements were being made late morning and the Captain C would be leaving Nassau about 5:30pm! We motor-sailed as fast as we could go. The dealer faxed Phil the paperwork; Phil roared out to Hog Cay in his fast boat with the form for Jim to sign; with papers in hand, he roared back to Duncan Town and sent off the order. More phone calls came from Shane - the Yamaha dealer. The fax had been received, the order was being processed, and finally - the box was on the boat!
With that all taken care of, we went ashore with Marilyn and Bruce to go exploring. Other cruisers have cut trails through to the windward shore and we spent a wonderful couple of hours wandering along a beach there. We found a couple of hamburger beans within the first few minutes and a few pretty, small shells, but there wasn't quite the wealth of shelling and beaning we had hoped to see. (Now if we were looking for shoes or plastic containers, it was bonanza time.) The sound of waves rolling ashore and the sight of layers of blue water and white foam was fabulous, however. Once back at the boat, we went for a swim, checking out the little coral head near us where we saw the first lionfish this year. That's the pretty but invasive fish that takes over the reefs and that they are trying hard to get rid of. No sharks, thank goodness!
Friday brought more walks - again thanks to the water- taxi service offered by Reflection. We took a different trail to the other side, made no interesting beach finds at all, and made our way back to the leeward side of the cay by following the trail of shoes that had been stuck on tree branches. (Not quite enough of them because we had to do some real searching out of the trail in a few places!) A well preserved rock wall wandered along among the buttonwood trees for a good way. As far as we know, it was a pasture wall. Pavlidis tells us that Hog Cay was used for raising cattle, primarily Brahma bulls in the 1970's and 80's. This wall looks older but hasn't fallen into ruin like the foundations of Loyalist houses. Perhaps it dates from back then but continued to be used in more recent times. I wonder whether it held livestock in or out? We spotted a few small goats as we got to the beach but they were very skittish and departed quickly once they spotted us.
In the evening, the boats in this anchorage and at Lobster Hole got together at the pretty gathering spot on Middle Pen Beach for Happy Hour. Carol and Michael (Kanaloa), Marilyn and Bruce (Reflection), Dorothy and Glen (Dot's Way), Bill, Mike and Brendan (m/v Caribbean Explorer) and Jim and I (Madcap) had a very fine time swapping stories and munching on the food we had each contributed. It was funny to see those of us who have been here a while reaching for the potato chips brought by Caribbean Explorer. Our potato chip supply ran out weeks ago and the sight of those salty crispy things was a delight. They reached for dips and spreads because their galley doesn't run to those sorts of things this trip! It's proof that all offerings are welcomed at happy hour!
01/04/2010/4:47 pm, Duncan Town, Ragged Island
We were lucky enough to arrive in South Side Bay, Ragged Island in time to have Linda and Peter (Asylum III) act as our town guides before they left for further travels. Marilyn and Bruce (Reflection) were kind enough to take us ashore and we all went to town together. As we passed the dinghy dock in town, we met up with Michael and Carol (Kanaloa) so the 8 of us wandered about together.
Our Explorer Chart book says of Duncan Town, "About the only service of interest to cruising visitors is the BTC office." but it is SO wrong. Even without our guides we'd have loved the place, although their introductions made it easier to find our way around and meet some of the local folks. We took the path from the beach up a little road that led to the runway, crossed it, turned left on the next road leading up the hill and into town - dropping our garbage at the dump on the way.
Over the course of a few hours, we met Myron, who would be able to fix our outboard if we were able to get the bevel gear sent from Nassau. We visited the sweet little bakery to purchase freshly made guava duff and chocolate chip cookies. We then returned to the open air gazebo in the centre of town to plug in our computers and tap into free wifi. Next stop was the Administrative Office to say hello to Charlene who is the person to contact for just about anything - and who also bakes the goodies at Locos Pastries. Jim talked on the phone with Phil, who is our contact for all things outboard motor- related. Phil was working on his boat in the harbour. We stopped at Maxine's grocery store to say hello and buy a big bag of rice and some onions. On the way back up the hill, we turned off at Sheila's Fishing Lounge for a cold drink - and to say hello.
There is a construction boom happening here right now. There has been an infusion of money for widening the runway, improving the streets, building a new dock, and establishing a Bahamian Defense Force base. Big road grading equipment rumbled up the main street and out along the runway. Piles of brush were burning where land had been cleared there. Goats wander freely. Chickens cluck and squawk in almost every yard. Hammocks made from fishing nets hang on many porches. The house colours are bright greens and yellows and blues and the inhabited ones are well maintained and tidy. Fewer than 100 people live here, and those we've met are well spoken, hard working, friendly and helpful. A sense of pride permeates this whole town.
Because the street down to "Locos Pastries" was torn up, we ducked down through driveways and around outbuildings to find the tidy little blue building. Inside, we found Jerard selling the muffins and cookies and guava duff that his mother had made early that morning. We remarked on the pictures hanging on the walls - Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Che Guevera, Fidel Castro, Bob Marley.
Maxine's store has the same look that stores in other islands have in the last couple of days before the mailboat comes in. Cans and dry goods, but precious little produce. Huge pieces of conch meat were drying in rows on lines behind the store, and I remarked that back in Nova Scotia, we can see fish drying too.
Sheila makes bread and cooks meals at the Fishermen's Lounge, but likes to have as much notice as possible, and we told her we'd call her and make plans to come in for lunch some day. She is making Easter dinner for all the construction workers this weekend.
Marilyn and Bruce headed for the school where they had dropped off boxes of books a few days ago (more about that in another posting) but the 9 students had all been dismissed early that day. They are off to Nassau on a school trip over the long weekend.
The gazebo in the centre of town near the Administrative Office is a work of art. It's clean, tidy and brightly painted in the colours of the Bahamian flag - aqua green, yellow and black. Several round tables and chairs take up most of the floor space, and benches are built in around the walls. There is a bar in one corner that may dispense drinks on other occasions. A couple of plugs were available, and the connection is the best one we've seen in weeks and weeks. The big metropolis of Georgetown has nothing to match this! (We have, however, come to find out that just like everywhere else in the Bahamas, it doesn't always work!)
We could look down to the Salt Ponds (still being worked but on a more limited scale than in the island's heyday) on one side of the town. On the other side is the small local harbour. Out ahead was the long dredged small boat channel that leads from the town dock to the larger harbour. When the mailboat comes, it anchors out and all the goods are brought ashore by the local people in their small boats. The only drawback to Duncan Town is the distance one must come to get into it - either a walk of a mile or so from South Side Bay, or a longish dinghy ride from Ragged Island Harbour. That will change with the building of the new dock.
Speaking of the mailboat - when the Captain C arrives on Saturday, we'll be among the anticipatory crowd. Our motor part was not available in Nassau, so we decided to upgrade motors earlier than planned and ordered a new one. I'll tell you that whole story in another posting. Suffice it to say that there are many services and good people here. We have been helped enormously by the folks of Duncan Town.