14th - 17th, 2011
~ Barges Docked at Potter's Cay ~ |
Passing the Time in Nassau
Although a great deal of sadness regarding the death of Don’s father overlaid our mood, we had a few
days until our scheduled flight took us back to the U.S. for the funeral. The distance from our family members,
and the general aura of touristic delight surrounding Nassau put us in a surreal state of suspended grief.
Berthing Re Metau at the Nassau Harbour View Marina became our first order of business. The dock was fixed, so appropriately tying the lines was an art that took
time and tides. Luckily, Don was extraordinarily adept at this skill, allowing our vessel to freely
ride the currents without straining, chaffing or scraping. It was nice to plug in the boat, turn on the AC to
dry her out, and dig out the vacuum to suck up all the salt and sand.
Osmosis versus Andros H2O
Being at a marina also gave us the opportunity to easily top off
our water tanks. Regrettably, the fresh water was not the product of reverse osmosis, the method
of purifying sea water used by most of the Bahamas Out Islands. That method produced tasteless, odorless,
refreshing H2O. However, the water provided by the marina, though free and purportedly potable
was shipped in from Andros Island.
The largest archipelago in the Bahamas, Andros was in possession of its nation’s sole
freshwater river, of which over five million gallons were delivered by barge to Nassau each day. I’d
no idea what the tanks of those barges looked like, what microbial growth was cooked up during that long,
subtropical transport, nor what chemicals were infused to make it acceptable for the populace.
Though we never experienced any related digestive distress, the aroma and aftertaste was not, by our perceptions,
palatable in the least. The time had come to break out the bottled drinking water that, following the excellent
advice of my world traveling friend Andrea, I’d stashed in every remaining empty nook
and cranny on Re Metau.
Western Esplande Beach and Prince George Wharf
~ Western Esplande Beach ~ | One of the most meditative ways to spend a day in mourning was
sitting on the shore, so we packed the dink and headed to the Western Esplande Beach,
just west of Prince George Wharf. The tiny spit of sand was bustling with activity - just the type of
distraction the doctor ordered.
And oh how the distractions entertained. We watched a vender spend
an inordinate amount of time hanging a hammock between two palm trees - tie, level check, adjust, recline,
too low; tie, level check, adjust, recline, too high; tie, level check, adjust, recline, too low. We grew
more amused by each failed trial - of which there were many. But the highlight was the rental sign he
put up after he finally got it hung to his satisfaction; $10 an hour! It would take
3 reservations for him to break even, and one overweight renter to ruin him.
Avoids His Government Dues
When we first entered the Nassau Harbor a few days before, we’d
noted a small sailboat anchored off by itself, a bit of a distance from the beach;
its yellow quarantine flag flying. The flag signaled that the boat’s captain hadn’t
cleared into the country. In order to legally cruise the Bahamas, the captain, and only the captain
was to disembark at the first Bahamian port encountered, and immediately go to the customs office
to obtain clearance via a fee (his would have been $150). Once checked in, the quarantine flag was
replaced with the nation’s courtesy flag, and then all the crew were free to move about the
country (for six consecutive months).
But the captain of this vessel appeared to be cruising
on a budget. With no intention of greasing any governmental garnishments, we watched
the wily pirate jump off his boat and swim to the beach - and it was a very long swim. He emerged
fully dressed, albeit sopping wet, and trotted off toward town. We supposed the sun would dry
him soon enough and by the looks of his tattered flag he’d been dodging the dues for some time.
| ~ Diana by Junkanoo Mask ~
We took a short stroll
along the shore to the Tiki Bikini beach bar, where a huge Junkanoo mask stood on display. Every
Boxing Day (December 26th) Junkanoo street parades occurred on most every island throughout the
Bahamas and of course as the capital, Nassau hosted the largest and most elaborate pageantry.
Though the festival’s origins remained obscured, the costuming was incredible.
Rather than truck cloaking floats commonly seen in State side parades, the elaborate
spectacle of Junkanoo was via enormous ensembles worn by a single person. Don and I
vowed to try and attend a Junkanoo in the future.
Señor Frog’s and The Poop Deck
Seduced by lively music, flashing lights, and bright colors, we attempted
to dock Dinky Duck at Señor Frog’s, strategically located just off the wharf where
the cruise ships docked. A widely scattered chain of outrageously eclectic bars with drink inducing
D.J.s, Señor Frog’s had been noted as a highlight by a few of our fellow wayfaring
friends. We thought it might lighten our spirits but alas, there was no water access. Beaching
the dinghy nearby put us in the gated British Colonial resort that required a security code to
return; a dock attached to the waterfront of the club was blocked by tables full of tourists;
and of course the cleats along the wharf were … well … cruise ship
We opted to head back toward our marina and patronize a place
within walking distance, an iconic restaurant called ‘The Poop Deck’. Without a doubt an unappetizing name, but the seafaring ambiance was familiar, and the
actual fare was quite tasty. Most importantly, sitting around the sedate, sailor-y bar was perfect
for a couple of melancholy mariners like us.
Straw Market, Parliament Square, Queen's Staircase & Sacred Spaces Sculpture in
Clifton Heritage National Park
| ~ Sacred Spaces Sculpture ~ Clifton
Heritage National Park ~
The next day, the bikes were disentangled so we could cycle around
to see more of the city sights. We’d not planned to spend a lot of time in
Nassau, so we’d no idea what there was to see, or where the sights were located.
I predicted the most likely place to obtain a map would be where the cruise line passengers
disembarked, so we headed back toward the wharf. Now with access via land, we were able to
get into Señor Frog’s. Just like before, the band blared, the lights flared,
and the crowd drank and danced without a care. Same tone - different tourists. Surrounded
by spirited drunks with spirited drinks in hand, our mood remained spiritless.
Next we aimed toward the straw market, where native crafts and local curiosities were peddled
to the day-trippers. For $5 one could buy a big orange starfish carcasses, just like the thousands
we saw living on the seafloor off the Berry Islands. Nothing there enticed us. A few blocks away,
an upscale shopping district offered duty free extravagances with labels such as Gucci,
Rolex, Tiffany, and Prada. Nothing there entrapped us. The make-believe Bahamian
experience surrounding the cruise ship travelers was seconded only by the even more bizarre
fantasy of Atlantis just across the bridge.
In somewhat of a fog, we wandered through the city;
past the Queen Victoria statue in Parliament Square, past the Queen’s Staircase,
through streets named Elizabeth, Charlotte, Duke, and George. Though they gave the islands
over to the slaves they freed, the British colonial influences were so grandly over-stated that
it was hard to find signs of any true, Bahamian heritage. Eventually, we came upon the Sacred
Spaces, an art installation in Clifton Heritage National Park. Wispy forms of women carved from
tree trunks encircled a pretty little garden, genuinely exuding native pride.
While returning toward our ship, we peddled past Potter’s Cay, and caught the
fruity, fishy, fried aromas that reminded us our bellies needed sustenance. Not wanting to
deal with the bikes, we ditched them back onboard, motored over via dinghy, and climbed up
the side of the pier like a couple of river rats. Baskets of conch salad, sides of rice &
peas, and glasses of rum and coconut juice were quickly acquired, so we planted ourselves
outside one of the stalls to enjoy the tasty fare.
shadows of the setting sun we watched Potters Cay become crowded with young Bahamians out
for a Friday night. Car after car drove through, dropping off groups of friends while snippets
of Calypso, Rake ‘n’ Scrape, and Soca music poured out of each window. We were
the only white faces around, but we’d finally found the authentic Nassau and our spirits
began to lift with the wonderful rhythmic symphony of that night’s Nassauvian mood.
~ Potters Cay ~
In the Safe Hands of Nassau Harbour View Marina
The next day we’d be flying back to the States to attend my father-in-law’s
funeral, and we’d a lot to prepare. Nassau was known to be riddled with rampant
crime, and in an effort to thwart theft, everything from the deck was stowed below; jerry
jugs, folding bikes, dive tanks, and all the dinghy accoutrements. With all the hatches
tightly battened and the companionway padlocked, we resigned the entirety of our belongings
to good karma.
Nassau was also riddled with rampant employment (a
worthy attempt I’m sure to stave off the rampant crime). Unlike the U.S. who strived
to stretch a skeletal staff to the limits, we counted no less than 10 employees inside
the Starbucks, and all 8 counters at the grocery were always occupied by a cashier and
a bagger. At the entrance of our marina there was a sizable convenience store and gas
station with four pumps, each with its own pump attendant.
With our luggage in hand, we’d hoped to surreptitiously leave on the day of
our departure, so as not to alert anyone to an unguarded yacht. Our taxi to the airport
stood waiting in the gas station lot, and alas, one of the attendants was chatting with
his friend, the driver.
two leaving your boat here, yeah?” asked the attendant as we loaded our luggage
into the trunk.
~ Leaving Nassau ~
Don and I shared a worried glance, and I evasively
said “Just for a little bit.”
“Which boat is yours? It’s the sailboat
on the end, yeah? Is that the one? Which slip are you in?”
the prettiest boat here” I vaguely replied. So much for shrouding the fact that
Re Metau would be vacant!
“It’s that sailboat with the green canvas,
right? I’ll look after her while you’re gone” he quipped.
I read the inquisitive man’s name tag, took a good long look at
his face, took his hand in mine and implored “Tevin, I’d be very grateful
to you if we find her safe and sound when we return. She means the world to me.”
“No problem ma’am, you ‘ave a safe
trip now” he returned in an earnest tone.
Nassau was considered the most dangerous city in the Bahamas at that time, with
armed robberies, property theft, rape, and murder occurring in broad daylight, most commonly
against tourists, and generally in the areas we’d been. We were diligent about locking
up the outboard, the dink, the bikes, and the boat, but coveting comments were cast and
cables could have been cut.
Several days later we returned to find both our craft
and crew safe and sound. When next we saw Tevin, we tipped him a twenty. I don’t
know if he’d made any special effort to follow through with his promise, but
felt we at least owed it to karma. No matter how bad the capital city’s reputation,
our experience had been rather placid and consoling. We were grateful for its modern
services that allowed us to be present for our family tragedy, for the kindness
shared by all the people we encountered there, as well as for the solace extended
to us during our time of grief.
We also returned to the plan with which we’d
arrived; spent one day restocking the larder, topping off the tanks, and prepared
to depart the next. We both felt that Roger’s short life proved we needed
to relish each day, because one never knows how long one has to live. Tomorrow,
we’d be crossing the Exuma Banks, to the sparsely populated, unspoiled bliss
that to us made the Bahamas a perfect haven. And we’d be experiencing the remainder
of our journey with fresh eyes and lives anew.