04/05/2008/11:23 am, Green Turtle Cay, Abacos
We've been so lucky in our timing for stops at Green Turtle Cay - the Junkanoo on New Years Day and the Island Roots Heritage Festival in May. The folks on this Cay know how to throw a party!
The theme of this year's festival was "The Jewel in the Crown" celebrating the Commonwealth connection and Loyalist roots. Queens Elizabeth I and Victoria were both here, along with Mad King George, first Bahamian Governor Woodes Rogers and an assortment of pirates and fire dancers. Also present were the very real - no acting required - Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, the Royal Bahama Police Band, experts giving lectures on flora and fauna, archaeology, Loyalist history, rail history, bush medicine. Several rake n' scrape bands provided music; games and activities for children went on from noon until dusk both Friday and Saturday. The bright colours and bone-deep drumming of a Junkanoo Rush Out reminded us of the full Junkanoo we experienced on New Years Day.
Local girls performed a Maypole Dance and it was a beautiful sight to see. They wore long white dresses, colourful bolero vests and ribbons in their hair. Most were barefoot and the ribbons of the pole were the Bahamian Colours - turquoise, black and yellow. They did a simple twining first and then a complicated in and out dance as the ribbons twisted perfectly. It was one of those things where one misstep would disturb the pattern but they knew their dance.
The whole thing came to an end with an Ecumenical church service on Sunday morning. The sermon "went a little south" for me when the minister talked about God creating the beautiful garden of Eden for Adam but then Eve got into the action and "it all went south from there." (I have this problem with literal interpretations of the Bible!) Fortunately the music was fine - good gospel hymns where the spirit of the words and the rhythm of the music are what count.
Because this was our last Bahamian Party, we ate all the local foods (ribs, chicken, fish, fritters, with macaroni, peas'n rice, guava duff) and drank all the famous drinks (Goombay Smashes, Yellow Birds, Pirates Passions, and Kaliks) we could manage. We picked up one more loaf of delicious and fragrant coconut bread and a couple of red snappers that we marinated in Bahamian Hot Sour, and then grilled to perfection. Eaten under the stars with sides of rice and plantains, it was a piece of heaven. Jim and I managed to stay awake late both nights - in fact we were still ashore enjoying the music at 11 pm on Saturday - that's about 2 hours after our usual bedtime.
About the music -local bands Island Spice and the Gully Roosters played early evenings; the Lassido Boys kicked up a storm of rake n'scrape both nights and the Royal Bahamian Police Pop Band closed out the evenings. The police band could march and twirl and put a Bahamian spin on the usual sorts of marching music, and then totally get into the fun of dance music after they doffed their fancy white uniforms (ornamented with leopard skins for the drummers.)
The Prime Minister arrived in a golf cart with just two people accompanying him and proceeded to walk about the festival grounds greeting folks. We thought his walk about would be more informal than anything found in Canada and it surely was. I managed to get myself in place to shake his hand and told him I was visiting from Canada's Capital city. He responded with a smile and a "Welcome". Canadian flags flew from poles along the streets along with Bahamian, Great Britain, USA, and the Conch Republic (a tongue in cheek Key West, Florida). Jim said I should get back in line and ask the Prime Minister if the Bahamian Department of Justice needs a Canadian Consultant so we could get back here again soon!
01/05/2008/3:17 pm, Green Turtle Cay, Abacos
After a leisurely morning at Fisher's Bay, we motored a couple of miles up the way to Baker's Bay, still on Great Guana Cay. We didn't go ashore there, although despite the private club that is present now and the new development that continues to go on, visitors are still welcome on the beaches. Instead, we dinghied over to Spoil Cay, the little island created from the dredging of the channel cruise ships once used to enter Baker's Bay. They no longer visit because, the way we heard it, coming in the Whale Cut is so weather dependent that they couldn't count on a regular schedule.
Spoil Cay, being straight in line with the cut, is a repository for all sorts of pretty little shells that sweep in on the tides.
After a perfectly wonderful afternoon of strolling along the wide swaths of sand ringed with the usual multihued ribbons of water, with sun on our bodies and wind brushing our cheeks, Mike and Cathy (Sapphire) joined us for some sipping and dining. I tried a new recipe for spicy coconut chicken and it was a hit. The combination of chicken cooked with red peppers and pineapple in coconut milk with ginger, garlic and lime, and a dollop of green curry paste is guaranteed to please.
When we got up on Thursday morning, the Whale looked to be navigable so we packed up everything loose, hoisted the dinghy on the davits and headed out. Solitaire had gone the day before and found the trip relatively smooth. The wind was scheduled to stay NE at 15-18 knots so we thought it was worth trying.
We motor sailed through rollers of 6-8 feet and a little bit of wind chop but it was perfectly do-able. The tide was ebbing and gave us a boost on the way out; we angled across the waves as we passed east of Whale Cay so that we were never broadside to them, and headed back in on the north side with a following sea that didn't seem bothered by the gentle ebb flow.
There are about 18 boats anchored off Settlement Point in New Plymouth - more than we ever saw here in December. Ashore, we met up with the crews of Solitaire, Sapphire and Werplayin' as we stood on the steps of Sid's Grocery Store and scooped up spoonfuls of ice cream. We visited the environmental centre at Captain Roberts house, purchased red snapper at B&M Seafoods and raisin bread at Sid's. Cathy and I bought Festival T-Shirts so we'll be fittingly attired for the Island Roots Heritage Festival this weekend. We'll head over to Pineapples for Happy Hour and internet time, and then will attend the welcome reception back at Captain Roberts.
The next couple of days will be spent here as we enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of the Festival, and then we'll gradually work our way along the cays to the north - Manjack, Moraine, Double Breasted.
29/04/2008/11:31 am, Great Guana Cay
With a little help from Madcap's resident anchor diver aka Jim, we got ourselves settled in Fisher's Bay. There is very little sand over the rock here and the CQR didn't bite into it very well so Jim and I used the system we've developed to get it set. He places it as well as he can and then I back down on it; he dives and pushes it as the boat backs up and he gives me the single to cut the power. The sand settles so he can see, and he either gives the thumbs up sign or we do it again. It took several tries here but eventually we were satisfied.
Solitaire came in shortly afterward and went through the same drop/back-up/try again routine until they switched to their fortress anchor that bit in first time. Hmmm... interesting. I'm sure I heard Madcap Jim telling Solitaire Jim not to let me know because I would start pressuring him to try switching anchors too and he is loathe to do that. I suppose as long as he wants to be the one doing the diving, we'll do it his way!
The four of us went exploring along the roads and beaches - finding gorgeous stretches of sand with waves roaring in from the ocean. I found the most wonderful description of the colours of the water in a book on Eleuthera, and it applies here too.
"They range from the deepest purple, through every blue imaginable to jade and aquamarine, ending up with the palest yellows, where the sand bars touch the surface in long ripples forming fantastic patterns like watered silk." - Eleuthera: the island called Freedom by Everild Young.
Add to those colours the varying shades of brown and hazel and charcoal of the reefs off shore with a few whitecaps thrown in for contrast and you may almost be able to picture it.
The beach was barren of shells and seabeans so we just enjoyed the walk, stretching out our hamstrings and muscling up our calves, cooling our feet in the water sweeping up over the sandbars. Once we'd worked up a thirst we headed for Nippers - oddly quiet that day - and downed glass after glass of ice-cold water before the usual Kaliks and a plate of conch fritters.
After dinner onboard, Jim and I watched the fireworks set off in honour of a man whose funeral service was held here today. It was a nice way to celebrate a life, and we could hear the cheers of the folks on shore.
The wind shifted through the night, blowing SW in the morning, and will clock through W to N during the day. We had been contemplating moving on Tuesday but have decided to stay here for at least another day, followed by a move to Bakers Bay and then through Whale Cay Cut to Green Turtle before the weekend.