06/03/2008/4:59 pm, Little Farmer's Cay (and Georgetown)
Oops - is Blair a corrupting influence? Nope - I'm just trying out experiences I missed when I was younger!
Let me tell you a few facts of cruising life in the Exumas.
1. There are very few banks; the last one we saw was in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera - back on January 29. The next one down the way is in Georgetown, or across the way in Nassau. Most places want cash and when a person can pay with a credit card, there is usually a 5% service charge. When we pay out some high-ticket items (airplanes and cottages) along with the regular stops for beers and lunches with friends, the cash flows quickly out of our pockets.
2. While every little town has its grocery stores - and we have come to love the eccentricities of them - there are some products that we haven't seen for awhile - like tortilla chips and tortilla wraps, interesting cheeses. Other products are pricey in the little stores - fancy crackers, breakfast cereal, wine, beer. Fresh fruit and vegetables are sometimes there and sometimes not. We don't really mind passing up exotic or out of season produce, but we do like crisp carrots and celery and a pepper or two.
3. Marine parts are really hard to come by in the small centres. Things break down anyway.
We were down to our last few dollars; with company coming, we thought it would be nice to restock our snack food larder, and Jim decided he really wanted to replace our starting battery. Blair and Mary (Strathspey) also wanted to make a trip to Georgetown to pick up some parts so we met up in Little Farmers Cay, pooled our dwindling resources and hired Hallen Rolle to take us in his boat (fishing boat - like a Boston Whaler with 150 hp motor) to Barraterre on Great Exuma Cay. From there we rented a couple of cars from Wellington Charles and drove to Emerald Bay (Scotiabank and Bristol wine store) and to Georgetown (Exuma Market for groceries and Top to Bottom for starting battery - and a looky bucket!)
Jim restocked his wallet and I proceeded to spend some of it right away. I purchased wines ranging from $5 to $14 and beer for $32 a case (24 cans). The cheapest wine in Staniel Cay is $15 and most of it is much more; beer is $63 a case. I stocked up on bags of tortilla chips, an armload of cheese and fresh peppers and fruit. I've been making a good little artichoke appetizer and couldn't find any more artichoke hearts. I found them here at $5.80 for a 12 oz jar. Pricey - so I'll use them for special occasions. No wraps anywhere so I'll have to make my own. The last ones tasted right but were very odd shapes!
We raced around town, meeting up with folks who exclaimed "You're here!" and we replied, "Not really!" The "around town" part is literal. Georgetown has a one-way loop around the pond so if you forgot something back a bit - you have to drive around the loop again. I think we did it four times.
We made it back to Barraterre after an hour's drive, bought fuel from the man down the road and returned the car to Wellington. ($70 per car) One other thing cruisers might be interested in is that since we no longer own a car, we have no vehicle insurance, and because the rental is a cash transaction, the insurance that comes with our credit card is no good. You can guess that we drove carefully!
Hallen was waiting for us; we loaded all our boxes and bags and climbed in and around them for the return trip past all the little cays that we would be hard pressed to come close to in the sailboat. We zoomed by Musha Cay, once owned by Oprah (we heard) and now owned by David Copperfield where it costs $2000.00 to stay for a night; past Cave Cay which is being developed into a magnificent resort where it will cost a half a million dollars to stay for a week! We passed Lee Stocking Island where Mary and Blair pointed out their beautiful anchorage and checked out the various cuts to the Sound. We roared over sandbars and in between little private cays, and an hour later we were back in Little Farmer's Cay. Hallen pulled up next to our boats and we unloaded all our new goods before heading ashore to buy fish for dinner from his son, Jeffery.
We had bought triggerfish from him yesterday - brushed them with lemon butter and grilled on our little BBQ - mmmm. After discovering that we had paid Ocean Cabin $20.00 for two nights mooring on a ball that really belonged to Jeffery, Jim got his money back and we walked up the road to Jeffery's house. There we purchased four lane snappers (each one a meal for one person) and some lobster tails (for company dinners) and paid for our mooring. (Ocean Cabin owns 3 moorings next to the shore at the SE end of Little Farmer's Cay, and Jeffery owns the one on the outside)
On our way back we stopped to chat with JR - the local wood carver. His bonefish - all intricately carved scales and looking as if they could swim right out of your hands - were gorgeous. Perhaps when we come back I'll find a small fish that I can afford.
Backtracking just a bit... when we arrived here on Wednesday, we met up with Blair and Mary (Strathspey) and Nancy and Jim (Solitaire) for beers and other vices at Ocean Cabin. Blair had an extra cigar and I decided to try it. There were lots of laughs around as they realized I didn't even know how to light the thing. I took a few puffs and gave it back - good for a picture or two but that's about it.
The folks in Little Farmers fondly remember Joel and Kailin (Achates II) from Nova Scotia who spent a few weeks here earlier. Apparently Joel tuned up every bicycle in town and repaired an engine or two as well. Nancy told us that the cruisers worked with the locals to spiff things up for the 5 F festival (First Friday in February Festival on Little Farmer's Cay) and Jim pointed out a house that belonged to an early settler. He bought the land from the crown and had the excellent idea of making it generation land - which meant that as it was passed down, it required consent of the whole family to develop or change it. Not much chance of it being sold for a pittance to an outsider that way!
We really liked this place and will come back soon.
04/03/2008/4:54 pm, Black Point Settlement
We were feeling kind of sluggish - full stomachs, lack of exercise - so Jim and I decided to go for a late afternoon walk at Black Point Settlement. We hadn't gone down the road past Lorraine's before so that's where we headed. It was, appropriately enough, where the road swings around a corner that we met an older, bearded gentleman coming our way and the tenor of the afternoon changed.
That fellow was Willie Rolle - creator and keeper of "The Garden of Eden", and he asked us if we'd been to the garden yet. "No," we answered, "but we've heard about it. Which way is it?" Willie smiled and said, "I'll take you there." As we walked along, he told us about watching the clouds in the sky and keeping an eye on the shapes he sees. When he has noticed an image, he goes into the woods and looks for a replica of it. As he told us, he doesn't just pick up pieces of wood and imagine what they might be; he has the picture in his mind first and goes looking for the wood.
Willie's garden is something to behold, and it was our good fortune to be able to walk through it with him as our guide. Without his encouragement and hints, we would never have been able to "see" as much as we did. It helps to move into "right brain" mode - setting judgement aside and seeing whatever presents itself. What I think sets Willie apart from a gatherer of interesting wood pieces and puts him into the genre of artist, is his ability to see the shape in the abstract, his desire to cultivate that vision in others, and his willingness to leave open the possibility of other interpretations by other viewers. Most times, Jim and I said "Of course!" as he told us what the piece meant to him, and a few times we saw it before he gave us any clues. Sometimes, Willie would ask, "What do you see?" and sometimes he would say with a twinkle in his eye, "Maybe you haven't seen that animal yet!"
Besides the sculpture part of the garden, we were amazed to see dozens of plants and trees growing from every little pocket of soil in Willie's rocky plot of land. He had guava, papaya, tamarind, plantain, banana and mango trees, tomato, pumpkin, pepper, lettuce and squash plants. He walked us all around the yard, pointing out this tree and that; he plucked an almost ripe papaya for us (delicious) broke off a piece of tamarind for us to try. Willie accepts donations but puts no pressure on that side of things. He loves his garden; he loves to share it with people. He has been building it for 30 years, adding, removing, adjusting pieces, and when he started planting his edible garden, it was against advice from many folks. They said only a fool would start that - he'd never live to see it produce anything. When the same folks came back to ask how he did it, he told them a fool wouldn't be able to tell them, so he didn't!
Mike (Sapphire) told me he thought this might be my kind of thing, and sure enough, he was right!! How easily a simple walk can change into an excellent encounter with a fascinating man and his life's work. The whole experience - the garden and the man - really appealed to my belief that we all have really cool possibilities inside us. Perhaps it is not everyone's Garden of Eden, but it is Willie's, and Jim and I loved spending time in it.
This picture was taken by Sandy and Dana (Sol Purpose). Pretty, eh?
04/03/2008/8:36 am, Black Point Settlement
The children left on Thursday morning and we have less than a week now before our friends Charles and Linda arrive from Ottawa to spend a week on the boat with us. We moved Madcap over to Big Majors Spot for more shelter, and enjoyed a fine ginger-chicken stirfry dinner with Mary and Blair on Strathspey.
On Friday we moped around and went ashore (getting soaked in the process) to make sure everyone got home OK. We had a fine conversation with Andrew of Samaria II from Kingston, Ontario, and a visit with Bob and Mary Lou on Cygnus.
Saturday was a big day in Staniel Cay. Captain Rolly Gray, (1922-2008) an "elder statesman" passed away on Feb 17. Because Staniel Cay is too small to accommodate the hundreds of people wishing to pay their respects, a memorial service was held in Nassau last week and his funeral was here at "home". We had decided to stay in the area to be part of this event and it was a good decision. He was a remarkable man and this was a remarkable funeral.
Captain Gray was noted for being a champion sailboat racer and the grand master of the Mailboat captains. He sailed over 500,000 nautical miles on the mailboats and just resigned his last captaincy - on the Grand Master - in 2004. Many of those miles were at night and without modern day GPS assistance. He won dozens of awards in the regattas on the Tida Wave, the Lady M and Sea Hound and raced in A, B, and C classes. He still holds several records, and is the only person to have been champion at least once in every decade for 5 decades. A high point was when he took Prince Philip sailing on the Lady M.
Besides these nautical accomplishments, Rolly Gray was a family man and a respected citizen of this community. The service booklet listed 5 sons, 5 daughters and 9 adopted children. The list of extended family filled a whole page and included grandchildren, godchildren, great and grand nieces and nephews and family groups from this and other Exuma Islands. Family is important here. Captain Gray owned or administered most of the property on Staniel Cay and from what we have heard, it was necessary -or at least important - to get his permission/blessing on what one wanted to do here.) Miss Flo at the Pink Store said people really respected his opinion and he was able to resolve most disputes that came to his attention.
The funeral took place at the Mt Oliveth Baptist Church at 11 am and people started gathering long before that. Four mailboats arrived in on Friday night; the streets and verandahs filled with friends and family members who had come home. Both men and women were all dressed up on Saturday morning. Crisp white shirts and black suits were standard for men and boys. The women donned beautifully tailored black or white dresses and suits; many sported elegant hats. The little girls were stunning in very fancy long dresses. These are extremely handsome people. Standing along the fringes (and feeling welcome) in the tents with wide-screen TV's outside the church, and at the burial site, were the cruisers in whatever respectable clothes we could muster.
The Tida Wave and the Grand Master were tied up at the wharf right beside the church. The lawns and building were filled with people for the service. We joined them for part of it - the tributes and hymn singing - and mingled with people drifting in and out of the area - taking cover in the rain showers and wandering off to have lunch. Jim laughed that this was the first funeral during which he was present for 45 minutes, left to have lunch and got back in time to witness the end of the service. We followed the procession down the main street to the cemetery where the coffin was placed into a crypt that had been carefully constructed during the week. The last coats of paint were applied to the cement just the day before. We were fascinated to see that the wheelbarrow, cement, and cement blocks were right there among the flowers. As the assembled crowd sang hymns and wailed, the opening was closed up. Blocks were put in position, the level laid on to be sure they were straight, mortar applied and the next layer placed until the job was finished. Captain Gray's body was installed in its final resting place while, as noted in the order of service, his spirit continued on his "journey to meet his ancestors."
Conversation was lively as we reunited with Peter and Gail (Jabiru), Evans and Roger (Stout Wench) and met Ron (Freedom) and Fred (Casa Mare) for lunch at the yacht club.
On Sunday it was time to move, and move we did! We flew out of Big Majors Spot and down to Black Point Settlement, clocking winds up to 23 knots. We found a spot to settle and swing, and got cleaned up and organized to entertain Kilissa, Strathspey and Cygnus in our cockpit. Because the wind was blowing hard and squalls threatened, we put up most of our cockpit enclosure for the first time in many weeks.
This gathering seemed to get us back into the swing of things and out of our "mopey" state. It was a top-notch cruising happy hour. Folks brought yummy things to eat; we talked non-stop and found all sorts of shared connections among the 8 of us.
Monday was laundry day, and just like last time we visited Black Point Settlement, we had a lot to do. After Jim and I dumped load after load into washers, he sat down in Ida's chair for a haircut. With his scruffy look gone, he headed over to Lorraine's Café for some Internet time while I tended to drying and folding between conversations with Rob and Christine (Celebrian), Mark and Julie (Rachel) and Beep (Midwatch).
We joined Cygnus, Kilissa, Celebrian, and Rosemary and Ross (Sundance V) for lunch at Loarraine's - delicious grouper sandwiches and conch burgers - and then caught up on a little email. Lorraine announced that there is no charge for the use of the wifi and computers in her Internet Café and was met with a rousing round of applause. Of course we are all happy to purchase her good food, bread, and to drop a bill or two into her donation box. She and Ida at the Rockpoint Laundromat have created a destination spot here.
I spent a couple of hours at the after school program run by Sharon and Charles. They are doing excellent work at helping children (referred by the school) to boost their math and reading skills. It's a wonderful synergy they have created here. They saw a need for one-on-one tutoring, and combined it with their connections to the cruising community. As Sharon told me, "We could volunteer ourselves but that would be two of us. By creating this program, we engage many more people in the effort." The time is 3:30 - 5:30 M-F. The place is the Education Centre - east of the Government Dock. Call them on VHF 16 - Providenza, or show up there a little before 3:30. It is a good thing to do. No experience necessary - just a desire to help and an interest in the children - well, that and elementary math and reading skills - its nice to stay a step ahead of the kids!
We made a stop at Celebrian - a Bayfield 36 - on the way home and had a great time looking over our sister ship, seeing all the customizing that Rob has done in his 20 plus years of ownership and the personal touches Christine has added. We were intrigued by their water collection system (a Y-valve that allows them to collect rainwater through the aft port scupper) and impressed by the beautiful varnished woodwork all freshly done up during their leisurely stay in Pipe Creek.
One more windy, howling night (but very little rolling) and we are finally caught up to Tuesday. Boats are clearing out of the harbour - some heading north to Pipe Creek and Cambridge areas, some south to Little Farmers Cay or Georgetown, some starting the long trek northward and home. There is a SW wind coming on Saturday and this beautiful big anchorage will turn from a gentle place to a choppy, rolly one. We'll head out this afternoon or tomorrow to Little Farmers, from where we'll make a water- taxi/rented car trip to Georgetown and back. We have a list of assorted errands as long as an arm. From there we'll head back to Staniel at the end of the week to be sure we're in position to meet the Flamingo flight on Sunday.