Home Sweet Boat
June 3, 2013
I flew home for a few days to take care of some business. I took a taxi to the airport, without even thinking about if there was more than one airport or terminal, I just said “take me to the airport.” I was dropped off in front of a small non-air conditioned building with airline counters inside and outside seating for passengers waiting for their flights. I don’t see Baer Air? I must have looked confused, because a very nice airport employee came and asked me what I was looking for. Turns out I was I the wrong terminal… and the correct terminal would be a very long walk. He got right on the phone and asked someone to come and get me in a “club car.” Club Car in the Bahamas = Golf Cart. I was whisked away on the runway, after we waited for a plane to take off in front of us, to the correct terminal. The correct terminal was air conditioned with leather seats for passengers waiting for their flights, nice! All 7 passengers for the flight on the 8-seater Navajo airplane had now arrived and after we all paid our departure tax of $26 we folded ourselves into the airplane and we were off an hour early!
It was a beautiful flight from Marsh Harbour to Melbourne, Florida. There are no words to describe looking down at the turquoise waters and sandy or rocky bottom. Our sailing journey departing Melbourne on March 18th and arriving in Marsh Harbour on April 30th took over a month. The flight back to Melbourne took 1.5 hours. “It is not about the destination, it is about the journey”… truer words have not been spoken when it comes to traveling on a sailboat.
What was the best parts about being home (back in the US)?
- Hugs! Hugs from my grandkids, from my family, from the very few friends I had time to see, Hugs! Spending time with everyone was precious to me.
- Petting and loving my sister’s kitty (formerly known as my kitty)
- Air Conditioning… sleeping in air conditioning, lounging in air conditioning, sitting an reading in air conditioning… you get the picture.
- Hot showers… I took 2 on my first day home! I kept waiting for someone to bang on the door and say “You are using too much water!”
- Driving… believe it or not I had missed driving around with the radio going full blast singing at the top of my lungs. I am going to have to try that out on the boat on our next jaunt.
- Drive-Thru Window … hamburger at Wendy’s, eat while you drive, one of life’s decadent pleasures.
- Dish Washer… no hand washing dishes!
- Missing my husband… after 2 months of solid 24 hours a day “together time”, I didn’t think I would miss him! But I did J
I was only home 4 days, was busy from early AM taking the grandkids to soccer camp to dinner time. So different from the typical lazy days on the boat where if I have done a chore or 2 I call it quits for the day so I don’t overexert myself.
Flying back to Marsh Harbour I felt like I was going home, it felt right, I looked forward to kissing George and being on the boat. George had moved the boat into the Marsh Harbour Marina while I was gone because the winds were gusting to > 40 MPH and there was a lot of rain. He would have been fine at anchor but wasn’t getting much sleep, being alert all night to the anchor possibly dragging or other boats dragging. We dumped my bags on the boat and went up to the Jib Room restaurant here at the marina and had a delicious lunch. George has been on a Conch diet, so he had Conch Quesadillas… they were good! He has also had Conch Pizza, Conch Nachos, Coconut Conch, Conch Fritters, Conch Salad and lots of Cracked Conch in our travels thru the islands.
After lunch, a much needed nap was taken since I needed to rest up for the evening festivities, a fish fry potluck at the Jib Room for the marina guests. The Jib Room provided fried Grouper, fried Mahi Mahi, Conch Salad and dirty rice; all the boaters brought side dishes. One boater brought pies from Vernon’s on Hope Town… we had heard a lot about Vernon’s pies, it was a delicious pleasure to try the Key Lime and Chocolate pies.
We will be here a day or 2 to take care of laundry, enjoy the pool and regroup. Back out to the anchorage on Monday, then wait for it to stop raining and head south.
Home Sweet Boat…
Grateful for it all…
It is time to leave Marsh Harbour…
May 9, 2013
It is time to leave Marsh Harbour, but I think we did the island justice.
Jib Room: The Jib Room seems to be the cruiser’s hub on land. It is on the East side of the anchorage and their motto is “it is worth coming to the other side…” It is a family run marina and restaurant with a pool and laundry facilities. They have a BBQ special on Wednesday’s and Steak night on Saturday’s. Following the meals there is entertainment… Rake & Scrape and Desmond the Limbo Man. Must do evening while in Marsh Harbour.
Snappas, Mangoes and Curly Tails: These restaurants are right on the water in the downtown area and offer the quintessential Bahamian menu… Fish, Conch, Burgers, etc. A lot of it is fried and all of it is good.
We took the Albury Ferry to Hope Town ($27 roundtrip, ~20 minutes 1 way). I think that Hope Town is the quaintest of all the settlements here in the Abacos. Hope Town pictures.
We snorkeled at Mermaid Reef. Mermaid Reef is considered the best reef for “beginners” since you can swim to it form shore and it is rather shallow. The reef is not very colorful but there are a lot of fish.
We had a beautiful sail to Great Guanna Cay to go to Nipper’s and Grabber’s for the day on Two Step (catamaran) and a quick powerboat ride back to Marsh Harbour courtesy of Dickie & Nan.
We enjoyed the cottage Merrilee stayed in (Pelican Beach Villas). It was on a beautiful peninsula very near Mermaid Reef. Just gorgeous.
But it is time for us move along and see other islands here in the Abacos…
Marsh Harbour Pictures (added new ones to the end of the gallery)
Great Guanna Cay Pictures (added new ones to the end of the gallery)
Grateful for it all…
From Merrilee’s Perspective “A Week in the Abaco’s”
May 8, 2013
Merrilee’s Blog Post:
A Week in the Abacos
It was only a few weeks ago that I was sitting in a rented room in Anchorage, Alaska, making arrangements to visit my friends Susan and George in the Bahamas on a whim. There was still snow on the ground here in this place I simply did not want to be, physically or mentally. I had cut out my horoscope from the local paper that week:
The trouble with our age is that it is all signpost and no destination… I am concerned that you may have fallen under the sway of this kind of myopia, Aquarius. A steady stream of useful tips and clues has been appearing, but you’re missing some of them. Your long-range goals aren’t sufficiently clear, so you don’t always recognize the significance of new revelations. Here’s the cure: In your imagination, create a vivid picture of your next big destination.[i]
Then Susan posted on Facebook, “We are in Green Turtle Cay.” I could practically hear the water and feel the breeze blowing from the photo she posted. “I want to be there,” I posted. “Well come on down then,” she replied. There was a window in my calendar. I made my plans and called the cat sitter. I flew home long enough to pet the cat, go through two weeks worth of mail, mow the lawn, and swap cool-weather business clothes for shorts, sandals and sleeveless shirts.
The vacation gods were with me, starting with my villa at Pelican Beach. Too beautiful. Quiet. Surrounded by aqua/turquoise/blue water. I re-read the horoscope that now served as a bookmark in my Bahamas travel guide. Is there a lesson to be learned on this trip? Is this the destination? “Change of plans,” I write in my journal. “Be here, wherever that is, rather than there, with cases and strategies causing interference.”
After a day of snorkeling, Susan and I stop by the Jib Room, a local watering hole with a dinghy dock and a cast of characters. A conversation starts with Dickie, the window glass king of Mississippi. We meet his wife, Nan. Bob joins the conversation when he finds out where Susan is from — he is from Merritt Island. George arrives by dinghy to collect Susan. Bob tells me there is a Kentucky Derby party going on at Snappa’s, so we hop in his dinghy to check it out. No mint juleps, so we drink Jim Beam. We meet Steve. Casual business is conducted (Bob runs a charter business.) Steve leaves, but later we find he has picked up our tab. Orb wins the Derby.
Race over, we head back to the Jib Room where Bob’s friend Tom joins us. I meet Desmond, the limbo king. Dickie is in high form. The Sunday pig roast at Nipper’s is mentioned. Susan and I are going, I say. (The plan is to go by ferry.) Bob offers to take us, and Desmond too. We watch the limbo man perform. It will take days to get that song out of my head. (D’oh! it’s back again!) When it is time to call it a night, plans are made for a rendezvous the next morning at 10:00 for a sail to Guana Cay. I email Susan that night. We have a ride to Nipper’s, I tell her, but as alcohol was involved in the evening’s travel plans, Plan B (the ferry) remains in effect.
When I arrive at the Jib Room the next morning, Capt. Bob and Desmond are there, as are a few other stragglers disappointed that the Jib Room is not yet open. But Plan A looks to be a go! George arrives with Susan, but has decided to opt for a day of alone time. Capt. Bob promises to have us back by sunset.
Plan A starts to waiver. Bob’s crewman, Sparky, has gone AWOL with Bob’s dinghy, which we need to get to “Two Step,” Bob’s catamaran. By 10:30, still no Sparky as we watch “Plan B,” the ferry, leave the harbour. At 11:00, still no Sparky, but the Jib Room opens, so I get a beer. Then Sparky is spotted in the distance, trying to pull-start the dinghy’s outboard. Oars come out. Susan and I exchange glances. She has memorized the ferry schedule, so Plan B2 quietly goes into effect. We have time and the bar is open, so we settle back to island attitude as spectators to the unfolding saga of Plan A. The dinghy has arrived dockside, and dingy wrangling commences. We are introduced to the happy but hapless Sparky, a friendly Canadian from Kelowna, BC. He and I bond over our common northwestness, having been surrounded by southeasterners. Dickie stops by; he is also planning on going to Guana, just waiting on Nan. He has rented a 17-foot power boat and will take us over. The dinghy engine roars to life at the hands of Capt. Bob. Plan A2 goes into effect. Bob and Sparky load the dinghy with refreshments and head to Two Step. Dickie ferries Susan, Desmond and me to the catamaran.
We are soon on our way to Guana Cay, under sail at 4-5 knots for the 7-8 mile crossing. A cooler full of Kalik, reggae music playing, tall tales being told by all.
Thank you, vacation gods.
My day on Guana Cay was a surreal combination of sublime relaxation amidst frenetic energy. We side-step our way through the happy crowd at Nipper’s, and immediately find Dicky and Nan, who arrived well ahead of us. Once the first round of drinks is in hand, and we have found a place to settle (a challenge considering the crowd, but Susan is up to such challenges), I make my way to the pig roast buffet where I load a heaping plate of pork, mac ‘n’ cheese, rice & peas and potato salad — a most impressive pile of fat and carbs to absorb the alcohol. I grab four forks and return to my gang, a hero bearing plunder. We are seated with others at a long, bright yellow picnic table. Introductions are made all around. The couple at the end of the table is from Seattle. Small world… small world…
But our captain is restless. Weather on the horizon furrows his brow. Images of Two Step dancing sideways. He decides to move the boat to safer waters. The rest of us will move on to Grabber’s, where he will soon join us. We drink Nippers at Nipper’s and Grabbers at Grabber’s. I duck in to buy a bright orange tank top at Nipper’s, which is donned immediately. As I make my way through the crowd to catch up with my friends, I am told I am beautiful by a beautiful Bahamian man in a similarly bright orange shirt. Yes we are.
I need to pace myself. At Grabber’s I order Pinot Grigio on ice – a refreshing combination on this hot day. Sparky the Canadian boasts of his drinking prowess. Dickie dances on a table. Capt. Bob rejoins us and goes for a swim. Susan tries to understand what Desmond is saying. I find a hammock and swing slowly, absorbing all sensory input. The warmth of the sun, the smell of the sea, the music, the susurrus of scattered chatter punctuated by frequent laughter. I am content in a way that defies description. Like the calm aftermath of orgasm. The first sip of a cold beer on a hot day. Biting into a perfectly ripe peach, juice running down your arm and chin. Some confluence of all of this and more.
From the hammock, I move to the water, knee deep, toes wiggling. Alone but not alone. I return to my friends for more “not alone” and another glass of wine, the voices and laughter of my group now familiar. The warm and welcoming Mississippi accents, the energetic Canadian. Have I really only known these people for one day?
Time to go. Capt. Bob and Sparky take the dinghy back to Two Step. The rest of us pile on the party boat with Dick and Nan. I am ferried to Two Step. Susan and Desmond opt for the faster return with Dick. By the time I board Two Step, Sparky is passed out. Capt. Bob is stuck with me as his lone crew. “I take direction well,” I say. He smiles, but I see he doesn’t need my help.
After a brief delay to retrieve a left-behind beach towel, Dick overtakes and passes us. We shout out and raise our glasses to each other, mine empty at the time. When I run into Dick the next day, he says “Don’t you ever waive an empty wine glass at me – I was fixin’ to turn around and come fill it for you!” What amazes me most about this is the acuity of his vision – he could see that my acrylic wine glass was empty as he sped past.
Quiet sets in again on Two-Step. I go below to verify that Sparky is still alive, then settle in to swap stories with Capt. Bob. There is baseball. A no-hitter in high school. Time spent in the minors. And there is water. Time in the Coast Guard, and sailing, sailing, sailing. He teases me with a promise to take me to Pete’s Pub in Treasure Cay tomorrow, but he knows I am leaving. I feel as though I am being tested. That the right answer is to stay and sail one more day. Then perhaps another. The cloud of a case load looms on my horizon. I close my eyes and let the sound of water and the cadence of Capt. Bob’s voice chase it away.
I wake early the next day to make this, my last day, as long as possible. After packing, I sit on the porch swing outside my cabin and start this journal. I have a few hours before I join Susan and George for lunch with a cruising couple they know from Toronto. Some time before noon, I check Skype and learn from Susan that Bob is headed to the Jib Room after stopping by Stormy Monday. I arrive at the Jib Room to now-familiar faces: Steve, behind the bar, serves me a Kalik Light. Dick, Nan and Bob are there; George and Susan soon arrive. The stories and laughter this time are shared stories of our adventures the day before, including the story of Susan ripping her skirt on a cleat during the caper to retrieve Nan and a beach towel. I can only imagine George’s reaction as his wife is returned to him in this state. Sometimes I wonder why he even lets her out with me. I expect he wonders the same.
We meet John and Anna at Mangoe’s, and I instantly see why they have become good friends with Susan and George. Bob joins us. Laughter and stories come easily once again. I order conch chowder and pinot grigio on ice. Bob mischeviously renews his offer to take me to Pete’s Pub. “What’s the airline change fee,” Anna asks conspiratorily. They all know the right answer. I know I will choose the wrong one. It is 3:00, and I have a 4:30 flight. A cab is hastily arranged, but waits patiently as I hug the couple I met two hours ago, the man I met two days ago, and the friend I have known for over thirty years. Even George allows a hug. As the cab pulls away, Bob yells, “take care of her, she’s coming back.”
And here I sit on a flight two hours out of Seattle, racing to get my thoughts on virtual paper before my laptop battery dies. I am reminded of the end scene of a favorite movie, Local Hero, where the main character, an oil man who has been transformed by his visit to a village on the coast of Scotland, returns home to his empty apartment in Houston and starts emptying his pockets of sea shells, and posting photographs of the people he met on his trip. The movie ends with a shot of the lone red phone booth in the Scottish village – the phone used by all of the villagers. There is no one around. The phone is ringing.
When I land in Ft. Lauderdale, I have a message from Bob. He was checking to see if I had decided to stay after all, and was ready to pick me up at the dinghy dock.
– – –
Thank you Susan, for a decades-long friendship that is precious to me.
Thank you George for putting up with me and letting Susan come out to play. And for cooking.
Thank you Desmond for being a quintessential Bahamian.
Thank you Sparky for just being called Sparky. I couldn’t have made up a better name for you.
Thank you Dick and Nan. Dick the catalyst who started the conversation that brought us together.
And thank you Bob for your generosity and kindness. And for helping me come closer to understanding my horoscope. See you at Pete’s Pub.
© 2013 Merrilee Harrell