28/03/2008/2:45 pm, Thompson Bay, Long Island
With the wind settled at a stable 15-20, our bow pointed consistently NE, and Madcap safely in the lee of the land, it was time for Jim and me to get moving. Accordingly, we put a few belongings in our packs and headed for shore to stick out our thumbs and hitch a ride down the road.
As we pulled the dinghy up on the beach, Marilyn and Bruce (Reflection) arrived too and quickly decided to join us. It wasn't long before a pickup truck stopped, we clambered in the back and rode a short distance to Salt Pond. After checking out the Marine Store there, the thumbs went out again and another truck pulled up. This time the gentleman said he was going to Deadman's Cay, almost as far as we needed to go - to Max's Conch Bar where there is wifi - and we said fine. As we got to his destination he called back, "I'll take you the rest of the way" and so he drove on several more miles. We were impressed again and again throughout the day by the kindness of these drivers.
Max's Conch Bar and Grill is a great place; it has a similar feel to Pete's Pub back in the Abacos, despite being just along the Queen's Highway with no beach in sight. The roof of the circular little bar is thatched, license plates hang overhead interspersed with pictures and T-shirts and other memorabilia. Counter tops have shell sculptures, plants, photo albums, a checkerboard with beer bottle caps for playing pieces, and a couple of tables out back by the garden provide more elbow room for folks wishing to make eating their first priority. Gary wielded a machete in the centre of the hut as he chop-chopped ingredients for conch salad. Jim and I checked e-mail while Marilyn and Bruce played checkers and then it was time to go in search of the HotSpot - a restaurant they were anxious to try. Once again it was just a minute or two until we got picked up and dropped off a couple of miles down the road where we enjoyed a good lunch of cracked conch for the other three and grouper fingers for me. Our server was a sweet young girl (Gr 6) who was clearly experienced at helping her mother. Her manners were impeccable; she knew exactly what was on the menu and how to present the food.
With stomachs full, the thumbs went out again and we got a short ride along to a service station. This time we walked about a half mile before being picked up by Keith in his van. Despite his intention to go up the road just a mile to pick up a friend, he told us to hop in and he'd take us all the way back to Thompson Bay. Turns out, Keith is an attorney in Nassau and is visiting back here on Long Island. He picked up Peter at a construction site and the two of them proved highly informative and entertaining as we traveled. Peter has a great head full of dreadlocks; I was sitting right behind him and itching to see what they felt like so... I said, "Could I please feel your hair?" To everyone's amusement, I fingered one lock as he told me to grab a handful and pull. They are much rougher and harder than I thought they'd be.
In the evening, the four boats met up at Club Thompson Bay, where Jim and I had made reservations for the Wednesday night Bahamian Dinner. Tryfina delivered plate after plate from her kitchen. Well - actually it was Marge who delivered the plates. Marge and Jerry, whom we'd met at Parrots were there to join us, and Marge did most of the walking back and forth because Tryfina has bad legs - greatly in need of knee replacements - which she plans to have done in Cuba because it is cheaper than Nassau or the States.
Dinner started about an hour later than advertised, and consisted of plantains, grouper done two ways (fried and stewed), liver, ribs, chicken, peas'n rice, potato salad, cole slaw, macaroni. When we got up from the table a couple of hours later, paid our $14.00 apiece (imagine - for all that food!) and said our thank yous and good byes to Tryfina, we were stuffed and sleepy.
As is usual in the Bahamas, mostly everything was battered and fried. At first it is greatly satisfying, unused as we are to that kind of cooking, but now it is starting to feel a little on the heavy side, and the waistbands on all my shorts surely indicate that this is "stick to your ribs" food. Time to keep a few of our favourites and switch to some lighter fare for the rest. I could eat peas'n rice every day but Jim is getting weary of it; mac'n cheese is my all time comfort food and I really like the spicier, firmer Bahamian variety. We'll get back to more salad type food and grilled fish and meat whenever we can. We're taking a break from the wonderful homemade bread right now too.
26/03/2008/10:36 am, Thompson Bay, Long Island
Monday morning found us ashore to track down the internet connection we had heard about. This picture above shows Jim in what has become his typical "office" environment. The real estate office has a wifi signal but it wasn't open so we perched on the rocks just outside and hooked in. When I went into the Long Island Cargo Services office to check on the source of the signal and say thank you, it was so refreshingly cool and air-conditioned that I also asked if I could just sit down in a corner and work there. The lady seemed a bit surprised but said, "OK." I got the last few postings made and as I was leaving she offered me a big bunch of red grapes - just in off the freighter that was nudged up against the shore. We haven't had grapes in ages so they were a real treat.
In advance of the northerly, the air was heavy and humid. Ominous clouds were skirting overhead early on, but didn't amount to anything. On those humid days, every footprint shows up on the floor of the cabin, the bedding feels sticky, the grains of sand cling to cushions and skin. We never did get fans installed and our air conditioning is through open windows and hatches, and it hasn't been a real problem. Most days there has been enough breeze for comfort, and these humid times aren't really too frequent. It would be different further south, but here in the Bahamas, the air is generally just lovely.
The wind was forecast to come up strongly, peaking about sunset on Monday, clocking around from S to W to N and NE by Tuesday, with gusts to 25 and then steady, strong trade winds for the rest of the week. We moved ourselves closer to shore to shorten our dinghy rides, and with any luck decrease Madcap's pitching in the waves. We got in surprisingly close and have seen no less than 6.8 ft. at low tide. By dusk, there were 24 boats here in this corner - with lots of room for more. The wind never did come up on Monday except for a slight increase as it shifted direction, and on Tuesday at dawn, the water was so still that reflections of masts were absolutely straight. It was one of those stunning mornings when the colour is all blue and the line between water and sky is hardly visible.
That changed about 9 and we all stayed hunkered on the boats as the wind came up and the chop increased across the bay. We were pleased with our position - lots of swing room and very little wave action. Mostly everyone stayed on boats all day and there was surprisingly little VHF radio traffic. Jim worked on his taxes and I read - just finished "A Conspiracy of Crowns" by Alfred de Marigny - about the murder of Sir Harry Oakes in Nassau in 1943, deMarigny's trial as the accused, and the involvement of the Duke of Windsor, Governor of the Bahamas at that time. It made for a very interesting read.
By late afternoon, we were anxious for a stretch and the wind/water seemed accommodating so we headed ashore. Everyone else was staying aboard, but after all this time of steady wind and steady direction, we really could not see any indication that it would be dangerous to leave the boat. A brisk walk took us to the Parrots Bar and Grill out on Indian Hole Point Road where we sat on the deck and tried some grouper fingers and conch fritters. Neither were particularly good - the fritters heavy and doughy, and the fish dry. But, the place is really attractive, the service good and the beer $3.00. We chatted with a couple who have purchased land here and will build a house on it, and engaged in a lively conversation with Marge and Jerry, from Chicago, who have owned a house here for 15 years. They filled us in on some places to visit - the Columbus Monument, the Blue Hole, and the Midway Inn's Happy Hour on Friday.
From there, we walked to Club Thompson Bay and made arrangement with Tryfina to go back on Wednesday for her Bahamian Feast. On our way "home" we took a tour out through the anchorage, discovering that it was indeed much calmer in closer to shore. The wind stayed pretty much the same overnight, NE 15-20 with occasional higher gusts, and that north wind blew all the heaviness out of the air.
As we woke up on Wednesday, the thermometer read 22C - one of the coolest mornings, and Chris Parker's forecast is for ENE and E winds of 15 with scattered showers for most of the week. Hmmm - feels like we've already headed north!
25/03/2008/10:26 am, Thompson Bay, Long Island
Easter Sunday dawned beautifully clear. Jim and I opted to spend it outdoors rather than inside a church, which is where we could be found in other years. There are several churches along the main road through this area and we met friends who were off to the Anglican one. As we strolled by at about 11:10 (service scheduled to start at 11) we saw clergy persons getting their gowns on and going in the door, and it appeared to be at least 1½ hours later before anyone came out. The sign outside listed 5 services each Sunday, and there were lots of cars in the yard so it must be well attended.
For us - the walk was time well spent. We listened to birds singing, watched butterflies dance past us, tried to get close to a really pretty and well armoured goat who matched us pace for pace from his position behind a thicket. We marveled (as we never tire of doing) at the milky green colour of the water and the sky blue above it. We smelled the earthy scent of the land after a rain shower, and noticed the huge variety of trees and shrubs.
We pondered the history of this island where agriculture is a main industry. Unlike the last places we've been, there are quite a number of white Bahamians here. My theory is that since Long Island was more fertile, the Loyalists stayed longer and have descendents here, while on the less hospitable islands, the white folks gave up early and departed for other climes, leaving slaves behind to find ways of surviving. It is the descendents of those slaves who populate the islands. We'll visit the Long Island Museum one day this week to see what the real story is.
Club Thompson Bay was closed up tight so it will be on the visiting list for another day. It seems to have been an institution in the area and all the books say it is famous for Bahamian cooking. A sign at the corner of the Indian Hole Point Road pointed the way to the Parrots of the Caribbean Bar and Grill, and we headed in that direction next. Friends had mentioned it to us, but it isn't in the guidebooks yet. It too, was locked up but looks definitely worth another visit. It's one of those really pretty establishments - with brightly coloured cottages, thatched roof bar and porches made for lounging upon, so we lounged for a bit before walking back to the beach where our dinghy waited.
We happily used up precious daytime minutes on our cell phone to call my Dad and the kids. It is on traditional family occasions that we notice how strange it is to be here in sun and sand while they are still in the thick of winter cold and snow. Aw gee - we really feel for them! Whenever I remember the bone chilling cold of Ottawa dog walks, I thank my lucky stars for this opportunity to curl my toes into warm sand and watch the freckles popping up on my arms. We are truly in the Tropics now. The line of latitude - Tropic of Cancer - runs through the community of Simms just north of us. When we go up there in the car we'll rent later in the week, I hope we'll find a sign somewhere.
We lunched on a yummy chicken salad. A left-over lemon/garlic grilled chicken breast joined romaine lettuce, feta cheese, sweet-sweet sapodilly chunks, and red and green peppers drizzled with a lemon and olive oil dressing. Sooo tasty.
In the evening we, along with Joe and Mary Ellen (Dallycally) and Marilyn and Bruce (Reflection) joined Pat and Tony on Sara for an Easter Happy Hour. As is usual, we lingered long past dinner time, and made a meal out of the delicious fare offered. Marilyn got up early in the morning and baked scrumptious anisette/almond biscotti that Bruce delivered personally to each boat; other goodies on the table were devilled eggs, hotdog bites in BBQ sauce, cheese, crackers, lemon-herb dip, feta cheese/crispbread fingers. Oh - boaters eat well!