Christmas in the Bahamas
31 December 2015
Christmas is a different experience in the Bahamas. We launched Uproar the week before Christmas, give or take a day or two. It is harder than you think to keep track of dates here. We did participate in the tree lighting in Marsh Harbour. It was a village style event with kids running around and food and drink from local restaurants. Lisa and I were certainly the only tourists at the event. We knew some of the people there from the boat yard which made us feel almost like locals.
Our goal for Christmas was Hope Town. This is a picturesque harbor with a strong group of cruisers. We knew several boats that were going to be there, the closest thing to family. Hope Town is a natural harbor but too shallow for Uproar's, say it with me, "eight feet!" Will from Antares said he thought he could pilot us into the harbor at the full moon, high tide but he said, "you may never get a chance to leave." Instead, we saw a strip of deep water in the lee of Elbow Cay that we could approach at high tide.
We asked at the police station if there was a place we could use as a dinghy and bike station on that shore. They said it was all private. I asked, "What about the defunct Elbow Cay Club?" They said it was occupied by squaters and may not be safe to leave your dinghy or bikes there. It was still the closet beach for Sophie to "roam" so we visited it several times per day.
This elaborate resort had been in ruin for many years. But there were certainly people living there in spite of the run down condition. They were shy but did say hello when we greeted them and they did not ask us to leave. This resort had the best view of the sea of Abaco. There were pools with tables and benches in the pool for soggy bar-side service. They were empty but we could envision the days when this was the place. The dance hall was huge with a large stage. Of course, there was a broken-down pickup truck parked in the dance hall.
The children were less shy and readily said "Hi" and waived to us and Sophie. Some of them were clothed and some not!
We joined in the Christmas caroling in Hope Town, one of the earliest settlements in the Bahamas. It was a joyous affair the ended in Christmas Village. Yes, they even had a skating rink. It was sheets of plastic about 50 feet square. You could rent skates and give it a try but you had to sign a waiver for the videos to be placed on youtube. I bought a plate of ribs with the best, spicy jerk sauce ever!
Nancy from Moon Dancer, 42 foot Garden ketch, built in Taiwan, joined us for the trip to Hope Town. Nancy is a single-handed sailor from Vancouver. We met her in Marsh Harbour and she joined us for Thanksgiving. Nancy is an experienced sailor and has served as a charter boat captain and ASA instructor. She also anchored with us off Elbow Cay instead of going into Hope Town.
Our anchorage had a few deep pools close to shore. Any time there is a wall and drop off into deep water, there is an area to snorkel. I had several fun trips to the snorkel area before we met the sailors on another boat who knew the area well. They told us we were in Bull Shark Alley. We had heard a lady was attacked last year but these sailors said it was notorious for the Bull Sharks. I still snorkeled every day and found some large Conchs and a lobster who joined us for dinner. Near the Elbow Cay Club, someone had dumped a bunch of truck chassis and other junk to make a great fish condo. Made for great snorkeling.
Christmas morning came without much warning or fanfare. Lisa and I exchanged t-shirts for Christmas presents. Kelsey had sent some old birthday cards she found which made for some fond reminiscence. We sure missed family. Then I remembered we had a hold full of children's books donated by our friends from Milwaukee. We put together a package of books, foam model airplanes and rubber flamingos for the kids at the defunct Elbow Cay Club. We dinghied ashore to their beach and carefully approached the building where we saw the kids. We called, "Merry Christmas" and the dad approached us. We introduced ourselves and John was glad to receive our package. I explained we brought books and toys for the children. He was appreciative but quite shy. We saw four kids present but were not invited into their home. No problem, we sure felt the Christmas spirit in the smiles and waives from the kids.
Nancy joined us for lunch at the marina restaurant. Then we dinghied around the harbor and visited some of the boats we knew. Even though it was 80 degrees and sunny, it was a Christmas to remember.