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Madcap Sailing
Walkin' and Rollin'
Beth - hot on the beach & hanging on on the boat
08/03/2008/5:12 pm, White Point, Great Guana Cay

After a "see you soon" farewell to Strathspey as they left for points north, and to Little Farmers Cay, we headed north ourselves on Friday. We had spotted some sweet anchorages on the way down along Great Guana Cay and decided to pull into the little bay just north of White Point. The wind was blowing at close to 20 from the S and we wondered if it might provide a bit of protection. Not so!

Madcap was the only boat there till just before dark, and we had a fine time picnicking and walking, swimming and snorkeling the little coral head near the boat. It was a gorgeous beach, and by climbing over the big dune we could walk the south side of the point too. A huge osprey's nest occupies an outcropping of rock and one of the birds kept up a steady stream of whistling at us whenever we ventured anywhere near that direction. Palm trees, flat rocks, a gently sloping beach made it a perfect place to wile away some hours.

Finding the little coral head was interesting; here it was - all by itself - about 12 feet in diameter - surrounded by sand - and teeming with life: Nassau groupers (a big one and some small ones), grunts, huge angelfish, squirrelfish and a host of others.

It was a remarkable experience to have these long, beautiful beaches completely to ourselves. Palm trees dotted the horizon, iguana tracks traced through the sand, the ospreys called ...and that was all.

On land and in the water, the setting was absolutely perfect. On the boat it was a different matter. We each spilled anything that we weren't hanging onto even with nonskid placemats. Neither of us had enough hands to hold plate and glass and knife and fork all at the same time! The gimbaled stove flew back and forth as I tried to make dinner and hang onto knives and bowls at the same time.

Sleep was scarce but at least we didn't drag anywhere, and there was enough light to see our way when we left the next morning. We'll pick a calmer night next time.

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A Whirlwind Trip
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.

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The Garden of Eden
Beth - weather clear, sunny, perfect
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?

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