42. Middle Exumas

 

Tuesday 27 MAR 2018 – Warderick Wells Cay, Exuma Islands, The Bahamas

Glenn and I go for a long hike today while Ava stays behind for some teenage alone time. The terrain on Warderick Wells is rough and varied, but not too difficult to walk. There are many trails marked with paint daubs and rock cairns, and though we lose our way a few times, it’s easy to get back on track. We walk for a few miles taking us through six or seven trails. Each one has its own character whether it’s rocky with low brush and dead silver trees, a shady valley passage under palmettos, or a spray-filled ocean path. A beautiful and satisfying walk.

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Wednesday 28 MAR 2018 – Bell Island, Exuma Islands, The Bahamas

In Warderick Wells this morning we watch a bunch (4) of beige Juneaus that are heading north leave the anchorage. It looks like they’re going to have a good ride. Our plan is to go south 20 miles to Staniel Cay for a small taste of civilization, but the winds have been blowing hard from the southeast since Monday and the waters are agitated. This will put us on a choppy beat (upwind sailing), the least comfortable point of sail on Netzah, for the entire length. We hesitate a minute, but we decide to leave anyway as I am thirsty for some internet juice. We turn on the motor and head southwest on a reach to leave the anchorage. In a minute we let out 75% of the jib and are instantly at over 7kts of speed! As we hit our stride, we fly past the mega sailing yacht named Twizzle. I enthusiastically wave to the two people on deck, who surprisingly don’ t seem to be staff, and they wave back. Ah, the golden rays of the beautiful land on my gray bedraggled face.

Soon we round up more into the wind and settle into our course. We are still moving fast, but are now beating as high into the wind as we can. It’s rough going. With every single rise and fall over the sharp liquid peaks, waves wash over the bow again and again. The gushes of sea water roll back on the deck toward the cockpit and drain off the stern. We are healed to starboard as Glenn puts down the centerboard, and on we go like this. We are in control, but it’s gallop. I’m not afraid, it’s just not pleasant. We last for another seven miles. It’s not that we are being beaten as much as we are being blown off our course to Staniel. Eventually we will have to tack, but will not be able to be efficiently on course. At least this is what Glenn tells me as he tacks the boat hard to port, turns on the motor, and bails east towards Bell Island. I secretly suspect that he is just not ready yet for civilization.

Bell Island is nothing to brag about, or rather we wouldn’t know because it’s a private island without access to the little people.

 

 

Thursday 29 MAR 2018 – Samson Cay, Exuma Islands, The Bahamas

Glenn is up first. He pokes his head into our cabin and gives me ten minutes to get ready. When I come out – on time – the seas are alive. “Oy!” I say. “Yep,” he says back as if to say this is my fault. “I don’t think we should leave. Let’s take the boat around the corner and wait this out.”

Oh no, I think. I was already supposed to be sipping Mai Tais with the beautiful people in Staniel Cay last night. I was supposed to be watching movies and getting email and, in general, you know, back in the world.

“What!?” I simply cannot. Around a corner? Nope. No. “But we were already supposed to be in Staniel.” I say meagerly, really meaning, “I want internet.”  Yes, readers, I then proceed to have a meltdown over my desire for internet, which I haven’t had in seven days. My struggle is real. And so is my addiction, apparently.

Glenn concedes in trying to make it to Staniel, “But if our speeds drop below 3kts, it’s not worth it and we will pull over.” Huh? I roll my eyes. Glenn will sail for hours at speeds below 3kts. We can be stalled in front of a piece of land, mouths agape at the showers and hamburgers, at the showers of hamburgers, without the mention of the word “engine.” But now, NOW, we will not tolerate it.

“fine.” I agree.

We make it to Samson Cay at a rate of about 3kts, engine on, fighting the sea the whole way. It’s as far as I could get him to go.

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Friday 30 MAR 2018 – Staniel Cay, Exuma Islands, The Bahamas

Okay.

You know how you can get your hopes up? Sometimes for the simplest thing. Maybe you read about a thing in a book or heard it mentioned in a conversation you weren’t even a part of. It’s not supposed to be a great thing, just something that tantalized you, probably only you. That’s okay, you think. I’m modest, you say. I don’t need a lot, I don’t need the best, but this little thing, my little thing, will revive me. So you stoke the flame of this mini hope for the future, keep it burning through your present lack. And because this keeps you warm, you visit it too frequently imagining at its end, a munificent fire. You get lulled. You get fooled. You go too far before you realize, ah, it was just hope.
We anchor early in a good spot right in front of Staniel Cay Yacht Club. The yacht club’s face docks are full with mega power yachts (80’ and longer). It’s a small club, so there aren’t that many (7 or 8?), but their presence is alarming in the way that they are completely over-scaled for their surroundings. It’s clear that the club and docks were built before this era of giant boats. Staniel Cay itself only has 118 full time residents on a land mass of 2 square miles. Like the rest of the Bahamian islands, the residents here live modestly, making the “megas” bigger than any of their houses on the island… by a lot. Add to that the amounts of gas and water these each “mega” drains out of this tiny speck of land and you get a grim picture. This disparity, saying nothing of the racial one which is even more troubling, is so greatly disturbing to me that I am agitated from the start of our stay.

As we have traveled the east coast for nearly a year now, a diminishment in the numbers of middle priced boats has become apparent. Yachting has never been an inexpensive sport, but, seemingly from subtle clues, many more middle class people used to do it. I admit sailing requires specialized skills, and ocean sailing especially may not be for the casual hobbyist. However, it has increasingly become a pastime of haves and havenots without much middle. By this I mean that we basically see two types of travelers out here: The mega wealthy and the mega not. The folks we meet and talk to are in the “not” category. I don’t know if by economic standards we can legitimately call these people poor, but they live very lean lives out here. A full year’s consumption for them may only come to 10-15,000 USD. What we never meet are people like us who are on a temporary break or who are permanently living middle class lives on the water. Perhaps this never existed, but I can’t help but wonder what this boat world trend says about the bigger world.

By 11AM we are on land. At the grocery we are told to come back at 1PM “after church.” At the not at all wholesale liquor and laundromat we are told our loads of laundry (wash and dry) will cost $30 and so will a janky bottle of wine. We pass on both. At the small cafe we find unusable internet. Why bother posting your password on the window? I wonder. And at the yacht club we find not great, expensive food and no internet since we are not docked with the yacht club itself. My little fire of hope gets reduced with each blow.

P.S. The provisioning at the grocery store when we returned was good. They had some fresh produce and dairy. And even though we came early (right at 1PM) we were allowed in!

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Staniel Cay

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Saturday 31 MAR 2018 – Staniel Cay, Exuma Islands, The Bahamas

Because we need our propane tank filled and Staniel Cay is one of the only places to do this in the Exumas, we stay a while longer. Because they use gravity feed lines at the General Store where they also sell Klondike bars, this process takes hours. Because this process takes hours and the proprietor had told us it wouldn’t, she gives us a package of hot cross buns in honor of the celebration of the crucifixion tomorrow.

Because we need diesel but don’t want to go to the fuel dock until the tide slackens, we wait more hours. Because there are a bunch of megas at the dock at slack tide, we bring 4 four gallon containers to the pumps via our dinghy which we land at the yacht club beach. Because we didn’t ask ahead of time, we find out there is no fuel left. Because when we get back to the beach at yacht club to retrieve our dinghy, we are blocked in by a dude who has just arrived from his mega and rather than pull to the side has decided to block up the whole beach, I get even more frustrated at the brazen callousness of the people here. Because I can’t take it anymore, I tell Glenn – yell to him in full public really, that he must get me the hell out of here right now.

 

Sunday 01 APR 2018 – Black Point, Guana Cay, Exuma Islands, The Bahamas

This morning I am in the cockpit. Glenn is in the galley making coffee when a sinister smile must have crept across his beard. “Hey,” he whispers up to me, “Do you want to play an April Fool’s Day joke on Ava?” Do I? Uh, do you know your own wife? OF COURSE I want to.

“I sure do.”

[Readers: You must agree, the single best reason to have a child is to have a constant source for one’s jokes and pranks. Amiright? I don’t say this mean spiritedly. No. I say instead, the gift of laughter, particularly at oneself, is one of life’s most valuable lessons. It builds empathy, resilience, and a sense of fun – all things the world needs a lot more of right now.]

But I don’t have an idea. Luckily Glenn does. “Let’s tell her the boat is sinking.”

Uh YES! He’s a genius! We hatch the plan. We need to be alarmed, but acting calm because we are trying to have her “not be scared.” It will all be in our attitude, we agree.

We barge in her room loudly, in a panic. “Ava!” I say in a loud, stern-but-calm voice, “Get up!”

“The boat is sinking,” says Glenn.

“Slowly,” I add

“We think it’s happening on this side of the boat,” Ava is already on her feet from a full sleep, big eyed. “from a leak in a through hull under your bed.”

She’s shaking off her drowsiness. She’s nervous, but I can’t say I feel badly.

We tell her to start gathering her most valuable belongings and to put them in her backpack. She asks us what happened to which we say we do not yet know. We need to investigate.

She goes into the salon, gets many things together and shoves them at full speed into her bag. We, still in her room, have lifted her mattress and the board that leads to the storage chamber beneath it. We see the generator and some spares. Hmmm, good to know we say to each other.

“Should I bring my charger?”

“Yea!” we call back.

“Now what?” whispers Glenn to me. I don’t know, we didn’t get this far in our planning. Hmmm.

Ava is trying hard to put on her shoes, but because she is rushing this is a struggle. She gets them on still in PJs.

“Hey, Ava! Come over here!” I call out.

“What?” she there in a millisecond thinking we need her for the emergency.

“April Fools!”

 

It takes a moment.

It always does.

The jolt of realization enters her mind. The stress releases, her eyes narrow, the corners of her mouth turn up.

“I’m going to kill you!” she yells at both of us.

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Arrival in Black Point

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Downtown Black Point

Monday 02 APR 2018 – Black Point, Guana Cay, Exuma Islands, The Bahamas

Black Point is a delightful stop in the Exumas for cruisers on sailboats. At 300 people, this village is the second largest, after George Town, in the whole archipelago which consists of 365 islands. This morning I get off the boat early with my loads of laundry as I suspect it will be a popular day at the laundromat. Eventually, after sending Glenn back to the boat twice, once for the forgotten detergent and once for my computer since the laundromat has WIFI, I get three loads going. As I get to my blog, a familiar frustration arises. WIFI in The Bahamas is not really WIFI, though I eventually manage to upload the text to my two overdue posts.

As I sit in the corner with my laptop on my lap top, the laundromat fills up with people, mostly women. It feels like half of the boats in the anchorage have a launderer inside washing or waiting to wash. It’s a modern day Lavoir. Most of the people here today are white, over the age of, mmmmm, sixty, and they are gabby. No one is local. They mostly seem to know each other, though this may be a chatty bunch, from being on this circuit and in this type of transient “community.” I am partly in awe and partly in fear. As I watch, I realize, that right now anyway, I don’t want to live on a boat full time. As much as I enjoy this trip and our boat, I have not crossed over into wanting to leave land permanently.

As I watch the swirl inside, Glenn is outside on the husband porch making a friend. Tony was favorably impressed, enough to invite us over to his boat, Sage, for drinks at 5PM.

Connie and Tony have been living and sailing their boat (1980’s, 38’ Wauquiez, Ted Hood design center cockpit sloop), this time out, for eight years on a journey that has taken them from their home in British Columbia, across to the Pacific Islands to Borneo, across the Indian Ocean to Madagascar, then to South Africa, across the Atlantic Ocean, brushing by Brazil, through the Caribbean Islands to meet up with us at the laundromat in Black Point, Exumas. (Super amazing!) Back home they were a politician (Connie) and a government worker in the welfare department (Tony). Out here they are adventurers, great storytellers, and patient question-answerers on all travel and political issues. When I say I’m interested in South Africa and ask Connie about their time there, she brings me and Ava inside and shows us the art work they picked up there. It ranges from white on white embroidered cotton cloths, which look somewhat like a style I’ve seen in Eastern Europe, to telephone wire baskets (amazing!!), small paintings, baskets, and beaded jewelry. I love it all and could have stayed a lot longer, but at about 9:30PM a torrential rain dump started and we dashed home to close our open hatches. Ah, it’s okay. We were all growing tired, but I really do hope to cross paths with these two wonderful people again someday.

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No pics again. I’ll upload when I can. Forgive editing too. It’s been rough.

UPDATE: Uploaded!

2 thoughts on “42. Middle Exumas

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