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Paradise Next Door
Bahamas Cruise
2011
Wally Cutting Coconuts
~ Wally Cutting Coconuts ~
Great Harbour Cay
Decline of the Concubine
Prior to sailing off to distance shores, we'd consigned both the tender and the outboard to Marathon's best known inflatable dinghy repair man. To cruise economically, our intention of anchoring offshore made sturdy, dependable transportation to shore essential. Sadly, Dinky Duck's transom was leaking like a screen door and her engine was about as reliable as the National Enquirer.

After several weeks, our 'refurbished' inflatable and 'mended' motor was brought back to the dock, just days before our planned departure. We plunked the Duck in the drink, and before the cloud of dust left by the mechanic's hasty escape had settled, an ankle deep pool of seawater had seeped into our tender.

The transom was no longer 'like a screen door'; it literally was a door in that it was now only attached to one side of the tender, making our little boat as buoyant as a bowling ball. Apparently, Elmer's glue was not the proper compound with which to attach wood to Hypalon! Note that I stated we went to the best KNOWN maintenance man – not the best SKILLED maintenance man.

The Zodiac's warranty had lapsed while in this prominent mechanic's possession, and knowing we'd be sailing off in the not so distant future, he managed to become extraordinarily inaccessible. Left with no other recourse, we were forced to siphon several thousand dollars out of the cruising kitty, and make a last minute portable transportation purchase.

We'd already relinquished the car to a relative at the time we took possession of Dinky Duck II, so we heaved the hundred pound RIB to a nearby ramp for the launch, and rowed her out to Re Metau's mooring. I won't succumb to the temptation of documenting slanderous particulars here, but rest assured I'd sent many a vehement curse out to that scoundrel's karma.

I have referred to Re Metau's inboard Yanmar engine as Don's mistress because he spent a lot of time on his knees putting expensive, shiny baubles on her, trying to keep her happily humming along on those long, windless passages. This relegated Dinky Duck's outboard motor to the status of concubine. The Mercury was only used for quickies across the water and therefore didn't qualify for the same level of Don's time and effort. Often, it was just easier to let someone else tend to her needs. Given the slipshod repair done to our dinghy, we'd grave misgivings as to whether the concubine was suitably appeased. But not wanting to further drain the travel budget, we'd reluctantly decided to put that concern aside.

Diana at the Great Cay Harbour Cut
~ Diana at the Great Cay Harbour Cut ~
The Dinghy Outboard Begins to Fail
Alas, our first full day on Great Harbour Cay began with much trial and tribulation trying to get the concubine aroused, an occurrence that sadly would become far too common during our travels. We were seeking to encounter genuine Bahamian culture, and our cruising handbook promised that the government dock on the northern tip was where we'd find the "hub of island activity." This meant a dinghy ride back out the channel and around to the outer western edge of the island. Don pulled the starter cord repeatedly, spewing his own obscenities out with each yank. After multiple unresponsive rips, he unlaced the hoist harness, popped off the top, squirted some stuff in the carburetor, tripped the throttle, yanked on the cord some more and finally got a reaction. In a noxious cloud of fumes, we thus set off in a fractious mood.

We arrived at the government dock to discover that, once again the Cruising Guide had misguided us. It'd stated that the quay in front of the public park was a good place to tie up a tender. Huge tires strung up as fenders along said seawall, and the colossal cleats anchored in the concrete made it quite evident that very large vessels docked in the area described. We just weren't comfortable with the thought of our brand new tender getting squashed should a boat befitting these docking fixtures arrive while we were gallivanting about Great Harbour.

And then the cantankerous concubine crapped out!

Don went into his dink starting sequence again; jerk, curse, yank, swear, tug, fume, wrench, cuss, squirt, damn, flick, swear, twist, cuss, tweak, sh**, pull, fume, rip, damn, and finally a sputter. More curses were placed upon the head of our Marathon mechanic, but there was one palliative in knowing our dinghy could never be stolen since Don was clearly the only one with the magic touch for getting the Merc going.

Great Harbour Cay Marina
We concluded the marina was a more likely landing, so retraced our wake to the inner harbor and up the well marked channel. The very accommodating dock master, Thorren assured us that it was fine to land the dinghy anywhere, and then supplied us with a visitor's guide which included a very helpful map of the cay. Thus, we discovered Re Metau was anchored in The Bay of Five Pirates (now seven and a half – counting Neptune in our crew).

Other than a half-dozen streets, there wasn't much else denoted on the map. A good stretch of the legs took us outside of the marina, where we received a friendly greeting by an islander. Wally was quite the philosopher, sharing his wisdom on love, life, and music all the while meditatively chopping coconuts with his machete. He welcomed us to his island home with a refreshing nut full of milk served with recommendations of all the people we should meet and places we should explore.

The Clubhouse Ruins
~ The Clubhouse Ruins ~
Biking Around Bullocks Harbour & Great Harbour Cay
With the layout of the land in hand and indigenous introductions made, we headed back to the boat for the bikes. Not wishing to delay, Don left the Mercury running while we stuffed the Dahons into the dink. The bridge between the island's two towns, Bullocks Harbor and Great Harbour offered a decent place to beach. It was an area that gave us some rocks to tie up to and, at low tide, a spit of land onto which we could haul up the cargo. We popped up like a couple of trolls on wheels and headed toward the hub.

The ride around Bullocks Harbor was short and sweet; a main settlement so diminutive that most all the shops, markets, and public facilities were situated within people's homes. There was but one main road running from the government dock, which remained ship-less, to the cut into the Bay of Five 1/2 Pirates (Neptune remained onboard). The "hub of island activity" seemed, at the moment, rather inert.

WhiteWater Bar
Desiring to encounter a little more local repartee, we paused at the WhiteWater Bar & Grill for a cool drink. A barstool resident encouraged us to try the establishment's infamous Bahamian specialty – macaroni and cheese. Though garnished with bits of red and green pepper, it definitely came from a non-native blue and yellow box. But it was presented with such pride that we gobbled it down with gusto. The friendly satisfied smiles definitely improved the flavor. Our chat concluded, Don turned to me and recounted the old adage "There's not much going on 'round here", and thus concluded our tour of Bullocks Harbor.
The Beach Club
~ The Beach Club ~
A Little Bit of History
We crossed the bridge over to Great Harbour in search of a little bit of history highlighted in the Cruising Guide that alluded to this Bahamian out-island's brush with fame. Seeking to create a paradise for the privileged few, development of GHC began in the mid 1960s. An exclusive marina for luxury yachts, a premiere golf course with opulent clubhouse, and waterfront villas all served to attract the likes of Brigitte Bardot, Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and the Rockefellers. Sadly, the rich and famous eventually attracted the villainous and infamous, and by the 80s, cocaine smuggling and weapons trafficking turned this refuge for the notable into refuse of the notorious.

Though less exclusive, the marina was the only enticement left in operation. The golf course was closed, and the Clubhouse stood in ruin. Its former 1960's glamour was still palpable in the architecture of the floating main stair case, the huge circular bar surrounded by now smashed shards of mirror, and the scraps of metallic gold-flocked paper strips that clung to the walls. Signs of a disastrous kitchen fire smudged the entire lower level, but I could find no chronicle of the building's ultimate demise. With the roof almost completely gone, a forest had begun to gobble up the ostentatious 60s, the 70s vices, and the avarice of the 80s. Whatever had gone on there 30 years past was now left for fertilizer.

The Beach Club
We left the dilapidated monument to elite infatuation, and peddling down the road to the Beach Club and its magnificent unobstructed ocean view. A beautiful little place of notoriety, this secluded set of circular bungalows appeared to have been built with plans to avoid the invasion of patrons altogether; neighboring absolutely nothing and affiliated to no one. Only two other guests graced its stools.

Clearly, Great Harbour Cay tourism had vanished. Endeavors to peddle this remote outpost like a harlot and seduce the illustrious had definitely failed. Our own little jaunt here had not been without some tribulation. But ahh – encircled by that magnificently exquisite view, we'd become the elite few. We'd traveled to this lovely island and were greeted with genuine pleasure, approached with dignified regard, and free to savor the stunning scenery in peaceful solitude. For that, we felt truly privileged.

Cruising Blogs
2011 - Bahamas
Paradise Next Door
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