Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Log Book: April 14th

Conditions: 65 rainy
Location: Cocoa Beach

On the ride to Cocoa Beach we got wet. All three boats were caught in a thunderstorm. The Canadians, being the first out of the gate had just pulled up to the dock when the downpour began. The Welch's were sailing and the high winds tore up their jib. Dad and I, being on the smallest boat, brought up the rear of the cavalcade but that was okay because we got the best of the storm, seeing some heavy rain but almost no wind. The town of Cocoa Beach is great, supporting a number of small stores and restaurants. A windy, tree covered street acts as the center of town hosting patio eateries, boutiques, and two city parks at either end. Dad's favorite store was of course the "hardware mall," a giant tool shop with everything you can imagine- pickle fermenting jars, drill bits, African Safari hats, etc. We walked around, looked in a few art stores, and caught a glimpse at the larger of the two parks, with an amphitheater for outdoor concerts. In the morning we ate a quick breakfast at the local coffee shop where they made their own pastries and heated them up in a brick oven. After much discussion all three boats took off for New Smyrna Beach. The weather was looking less than lovely.

Log Book: April 21st-22nd

Conditions: 70 degrees, sunny
Location: Saint Augustine

We left Palm Springs and had barely made it twenty miles before we came to a bridge that was "out of order." Four other sailboats were stuck for the night in the salt marsh with us. We had no choice but to throw out the hook and wait it out. Dad was not happy, he had been really looking forward to making it to Saint Augustine to meet up with the two other boats we had been sailing with. I don't know how, after all his years of sailing he hasn't learned that it is useless to set your watch during these trips - you just have to go with the flow. All turned out well though we had a nice relaxed dinner. Since we made it back to Florida Dad has been telling people that I am itching to get home. Summer is approaching New England, and while that is very enticing it is really not New England that I am itching to get to. I just want to see the next place, to have the next adventure, to explore more. Today Dad finally agreed that we had been moving up the coast at a snails pace and that even he wants to start our typical fifty mile routine again. This broken bridge isn't helping but the sunset was worth being stuck in time for (please see below).
In the morning we had a short ride to Saint Augustine and we were able to get in a bike ride right when we arrived the next day. Dad found a bike shop and got maps of some good routes in the area, the problem was that none of these routes told the average biker just how many miles they were. Dad is a very experienced biker with bike shorts, gloves, and seasoned techniques. I like to bike but I don't do it very often. Totally by accident we ended up on a route that was forty miles long. It was great, very scenic, but really tough. We saw farms, and forests, the beach and historic Saint Augustine but by mile 35 my brain was contemplating ways to fake an injury. We got dinner when we made it back to downtown Saint Augustine and then went back to the boat to fall asleep at around 7pm - clearly we were wiped.

Log Book: April 17th-20th

Conditions: ~68
Location: Palm Springs

We stayed at Tom and Kathy's through Easter and had a great time. Their daughter and son-in-law, who had also been sailing all winter were home for the holiday. It turns out that we had just missed seeing them in Hope Town, but their trip has been a lot longer than ours. They are coast guard employees, or as we like to call them 'coasties,' who have been on sabbatical for almost two years. They have sailed all over the Virgin Islands and the Bahamas. During hurricane season they had their boat hauled in Trinidad and flew to Europe where they bought a car and toured all over the continent; France, Italy, Denmark, Greece etc. They have about a million cool points but the best part of their travels is that they didn't stay in hotels, but camped every place they went. After Europe they flew to South Africa to go on safari in a national wildlife preservation called Kruger. The couple has the most amazing videos of their trip from Zebras, to car trips through mountains, to underwater dives in BVI. On their way back to Trinidad to pick up their boat they also stopped in Australia and New Zealand. They are single handedly the coolest people I've ever met. When they get home to CT they will start their new jobs in the coast guard in San Francisco. After we heard all of their stories my mind went wild with schemes to see the things that they've seen, to do what they have done. It's becoming more and more apparent to Dad and I that if you are going to sail to the Bahamas you are doing yourself a disservice if you don't go to the Virgin Islands too, even though it's a lot farther.

Log Book: April 15th-16th

Conditions: 20 knot NE
Location: New Smyrna Beach

Today was a long day of traveling. Dad and I fell behind the rest after stopping in Titusville quickly to pick up a boat part that we had shipped there. It was exceedingly windy making it hard to get on and off the dock. The wind wasn't helping us catch up either, since it was blowing right on our nose. By midday Dad and I were short tacking along the ICW to try and gain some speed, because motoring slowly right into the wind is not fun. The channel was about one hundred feet wide and the depth outside the channel did not support boat traffic making our short tacking exceedingly tricky. We might have grazed some sand once or twice. The inside of the channel wasn't too deep either so when a huge powerboat passed us at full speed the turf from hole 18 was laid waste in its wake - that's what it looked like anyway, as if we were sailing on someone's lawn. As we steered through the jungle of upturned grass I noticed the engine temperature spike to above 200 degrees and no water was issuing out of the telltale, not a good sign. Dad frantically turned the engine off and opened the engine room hatch, it smelled like the baking of pavement in the summer heat. All I could think was "another engine problem, we'll never make it home." Dad was clearly upset at this set back. We turned the boat around and began to head back to Titusville. After thirty minutes of downwind sailing we had made it pretty close to the harbor entrance at Titusville. We tried the engine just in case and low and behold the temperature gauges returned to normal and the seawater that cools the engine flowed out of the telltale again, a.k.a. success. We were saved! A piece of turf that the powerboat had drug up must have blocked up the intake valve that takes seawater into the heat exchanger which in turn cools off the engine. I think I could fix a car now with all the nerd knowledge I've gained about engines from Dad. After that the day got better, I saw a ton of manatees swimming through the canals and two flamingos.
We stayed an extra day in New Smyrna, fearing more rain and thunderstorms. Dad and I found a hole in the wall bar with a great husband/wife couple singing and playing the guitar, the place was packed. Dad also had fun showing me a shell gas station that looked like it was frozen in time. The meter still said twenty three cents a gallon and it had a propeller to show customers that gas was flowing from the pump to their car. In the morning we hope to make it to Palm Springs to meet up with our friends, Tom and Cathy.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Log Book: April 13th

Conditions: 70 & overcast
Location: Vero Beach

We left Stuart is morning and had an uneventful ride up the ICW as we were headed for Vero Beach. Just as we were closing in on our destination another sailboat began to pass us. I glanced behind us and vaguely waved but didn't take much notice of it. Then as she started to pull away I caught a glimpse of the name written on the side of the hull: Surreal. It was undoubtably the same boat of two Canadians we had met in Key Largo! They were waving madly from inside their cockpit with their dog Cosmo. It was so good to see them. Talking on the radio we discovered that we were both headed to the same marina and that the Welch's, friends from our yacht club, were not far behind. When all three boats were settled in on moorings we got together for some drinks and to chat. Our friends on both boats are headed for Brunswick, Georgia. The Canadians were leaving their boat there for the summer and the Welch's were leaving there's for a short period while they visited friends and family back in CT. Together we all made a plan to travel as far north together as we could and set a takeoff time for 9am tomorrow morning, our destination; Cocoa Beach.

Log Book: April 4th-12th

Conditions: 80 & sunny
Location: Stuart Florida

In the morning we decided to sneak into shore. We haven't called customs yet so we don't know if we're breaking the rules by not abiding by the quarantine but we figured since we are US citizens we can risk it. The problem was there was no place to dingy ashore, the waterway was surrounded by private homes. We eventually rowed up to an empty lot with a dock where a sign said "police property, no trespassing" but to me the sign just as good as read "public property."
We ate some breakfast, got some groceries, ice, and oil for the engine. When we returned to the dingy there was a man in a truck eyeing us suspiciously. He called us over and told us that we weren't allowed to dingy up to this dock and that he is suppose to call the coast guard if people did. We explained that we had been sailing all night and just needed a place to pop on shore quickly. He said again "I'm suppose to call the coast guard." Dad told him were leaving right now and he said AGAIN "I'm suppose to call the coast guard," and added "where are you from." We told him about home in Connecticut. He was from Massachusetts and the New England camaraderie seemed to do the trick and he let us off with a warning. Dad thinks that the strict neighborhood watch program and the inconvenience of no shore to dingy up to speaks to a fear of illegal immigrants coming ashore here. At least it's not militarized but these Florida neighborhood watch programs have a history of taking it to the next level. The sail down to Port Saint Lucie was not easy. It was hard to get reacclimatized with channel markers, bridges, dug channels, and he increased number of vessels about. When we reached the marina in Stuart it was like reaching Mecca. It was the most beautiful marina I had ever seen and it was municipal. They had bikes, a lounge, a gift shop, laundry, bathrooms, wifi, and a patio with a grill. The lounge was the best with a big flat screen that hosted a movie night twice a week, a half kitchen, and a number of couches and desks. Dad and I signed up to stay the week in the mooring field and called customs. Customs told us we had twenty four hours to reach their nearest office (Fort Pierce) and to bring our passports and all aboard. We still didn't know what to expect, maybe a customs officer would then accompany us back to the boat to check it? But no. We went to the customs office and they basically stamped our passports and told us to get out of the line. We heard the Canadians grumbling behind us that it wasn't so easy for them. I was shocked at how simple the process was, after hearing how hard the government has come down on drug smugglers and illegal immigrants crossing the Mexican boarder it seemed that it was really about race and not about drugs or an influx of non citizens. If Dad and I wanted to smuggle some Bahamians over or anything it would've been only too easy.
While in Stuart we met up with friends, picked up our bikes and other gear we left behind, did some shopping, and caught up with our favorite basketball teams watching both them men and women huskies take home the NCAA championship. Stuart was a great town and the marina was just a city block away, we had all the amenities of home, finally. It felt great to  have left the Bahamas and be back in the states the main difference between the two was choice. In the Publix in Florida you didn't have to buy just any cheese, you could choose between Gouda, cheddar, feta, Swiss, American, etc. I really took our amount of choice in this country for granted before now. If money doesn't lead to happiness then choice is the next best option, choice = freedom. However, this same agency of choice, like money, is not the cure all to unhappiness. I found myself staring at the immense variety of butter on the shelves. How many kinds of butter do consumers really need and how do I decide which one is for me? Have you ever been to an ice cream shop and wished the only flavors they had were chocolate or vanilla? That is an easy choice, and a quick choice. Having to sift through the garbage of advertising in order to find the product (or in this case the butter) that is right for you can easily lead to stagnation, and time is money after all. Some of the time that stagnation of the decision making process can even lead to skipping the choice all together, the freedom to opt out. Maybe this doesn't happen in the dairy isle, because we all need butter but this happens to me almost every other time that I'm in the junk food isle. It takes me so long to decide, Lays or Doritos that eventually my conscious kicks in and says 'you don't need any of this.' As I walked through the supermarket in Stuart that's all I had on my mind "I don't need any of this." The amount of choice is sickening compared to other places, like the Bahamas. If there is a happy medium between the freedom of choice and a moderation of choices it doesn't seem like any supermarket in any country has figured it out.

Log Book: April 3rd-4th

Conditions: 20 knot E wind
Location: The Atlantic

We steamed out of Green Turtle this morning with our new fan belt. We saw a few other sailboats headed west as well, undeniably for the US. It was a glorious day, not too hot and perfectly breezy for us to sail. We planned on stopping at Great Sail Cay, last stopping point before the sand flats of the Bahama bank and the ocean. There were eight boats there already, each one getting some shut eye before the journey across. Although we had left Green Turtle early this morning Dad and I both felt wide awake and decided that we'd skip the stop and just keep sailing. The wind direction was just too good to miss out on, we were averaging 8 knots, but we also felt like we didn't want to give fortune a chance to spin her wheel in the wrong direction for us again. I sailed from sunset to 2am. We met no one on the way out. Not a single boat. It wasn't all relaxing though. Since we didn't expect to be crossing tonight we didn't have most of our gear organized. I had to pump up the life raft and strap it on deck, on a bigger boat this might not have been much of an issue but maneuvering on deck with two dingies, a windsurfer, three sun showers, and a five gallon fuel can while sailing was tough. In the cabin Dad organized every loose piece of equipment that could get dislodged or fall over and in the cockpit we got our life jackets and ditch bag ready. Lastly I secured my plant collection, now swollen to five pots, one big one for the coconut Palm. Having never made the crossing back to the states we're not quiet sure what customs will have to say about our new Bahamian plants. Some people said that Florida is really strict, that the coast guard will fine you and make your throw away your foreign plants because they are afraid illegal alien bugs will be transported in the leaves and once released they will decimate the oranges. Therefore I intend to hide the green guys on board when we get close to Florida.

Dad took the wheel from 2am to sunrise. During our shifts on the wheel we survived on the last of our speciality coffee from Hope Town and pure adrenaline. At 3am we passed memory rock and left the Bahamas behind us for the Atlantic. The ride was smooth and I didn't feel sea sick once. We were flying home, going an average of 9 knots through the night. Like Dad, I napped in the cockpit during his shift just in case something happened, but nothing did. At dawn two container ships appeared on the horizon. Without a land indicator behind them it was difficult to discern which direction they were traveling, even though they are huge and moving very fast. They can be very dangerous at night, especially for the tired sailor. To combat the dangers of being mowed down by one of these vessels most long distance, off shore boats carry AIS systems that will identify boats by name, tell captains if they are on a crash course, indicate the speed and course of other boats, etc. We don't have one of these miraculous investments, making it hard to be confident when sailing in the dark. But we needn't have worried. We reached Florida around noon and began to sail up the coast to Fort Pierce, dodging fishing boats as we went apparently the Mahi Mahi had begun their migration. At this point I was a little frustrated, tired, and ready to drop the sail. The hardest part of the trip for me has always been seeing the coast and the accompanying feeling of being 'so close yet so far.' Our original plan was to come in at Fort Pierce because it was an easy entry and sail down the ICW to Port Saint Lucie, rent a car and clear customs there but when we got into Fort Pierce we dropped the hook in the first available spot (the nearest marina was full) and napped.

No pictures so enjoy this Florida beach scene: 

Log Book: April 1st-2nd

Conditions: 15 knot E wind
Location: Green Turtle part 2

Today Dad and I left Hopetown in an attempt to go snorkeling off of Sandy Cay, which is known as a great snorkeling spot. Dad has been there before. He went sailing in the Bahamas multiple times when he was my age. The island is very, very small and there is no way to go ashore unless you can navigate the rock filled beach. We tried to take the dingy out to the other side of the island, where the reef is but the waves were just too big. By the time we made it back to the boat I was soaked and we haven't even gone in yet. The water on the reef side of the island is deep making it hard to anchor, especially in this chop. The charter boats do have some moorings set up just off the reef but our boat is too big for them. We had planned to stay the night at Sandy Cay but the waves made it so uncomfortable that we left and went to a different deserted island with more protection for the night . In the morning we tried to go back to Sandy Cay and anchor. We brought the dingy out again but the waves were still to big to get to the other side of the island safely. Dad and I threw out the dingy hook just off the lee side of the island. We jumped ship and started to swim around to the other side. Turning the corner of the island the full force of the waves hit us. It was impossible to snorkel through them. As the waves crashed over our heads the force of the crests pushed us closer and closer to the boulders that edged off of the end of the island, looming out of the sea like giant icebergs of black rock. We turned back and with that final letdown Dad and I decided to leave the Bahamas, right now. We returned to Hope Town, paid the mooring fee, got ice, food, fuel, and left again. We got to Green Turtle just after sunset. It was still pretty light out but we didn't go in the harbor. We anchored outside with around seven other boats. Dad and I felt pretty accomplished to have made it all the way from Sandy Cay to Green Turtle without so much as a days preparation. The route to Green Turtle forces sailors out of the usually calm Sea of Abaco and out into the ocean through a small cut in the islands and reefs called Whale Passage, or just "the whale." It can take days to get a weather window through this small opening, and still it can be dangerous. We heard on the cruisers net (the radio morning talk show) that a boat got pushed into the reef by the swells, lost their rudder and punched a hole in the hull. It can be tricky but we got lucky. That is we were feeling lucky until we anchored, shut off the engine and heard a bubbling of boiling water. Our fan belt had broken right when we anchored, overheating the engine, but causing no damage. Dad assured me that any season sailor doesn't go far from home without bringing an extra fan belt along, we just needed to find where ours was. We searched around for a little with flashlights but no luck and we were so tired that we decided that we would just find it in the morning. We plan to sail to Spanish Cay or Great Sail at sunrise, either island will be our last stop before hitting the beach in Florida.
In the morning we began our search anew. Dad and I tore the boat apart in the process, looking in the most unlikely places. We both knew that we had seen the belt, we just couldn't remember where. We were on the point of despair when we found the receipt from when the belt was purchased, a good sign but as they say no cigar. It was almost eleven when we finally found the actual belt hidden inside a cupboard above the nav station. I did the happy dance as Dad held the belt aloft, but there was doubt written all over his face. He said to me "this doesn't look like the right belt." I knew what he meant, the belt in his hand was small, very small but we had the receipt with the part number it had to be the right belt. As it turns out the part store had given Dad a 24' belt instead of a 42' although the receipt said that we had the 41'. It was a big blow. I was sort of numb in disbelief. This would most certainly delay our departure. One of the other anchored boats outside Green Turtle offered to take Dad into the hardware store/marine store to see if they had a belt that would fit. Dad came back empty handed but had arranged a tow into Black sound harbor, staying on the anchor without engine power would be too risky. We came up with two plans. The couple that had taken Dad into the hardware store had a friend flying into Marsh Harbour from Miami - they sent him a text asking him to pick up a fan belt in Marsh at the local NAPA. There wasn't much hope for this though, the flying friend in question would have to receive the text before takeoff, while he still had service. The second plan was for the owner of the tow company to pick up a fan belt while he was in Marsh Harbour tomorrow. This second plan had a higher chance of success but it would put off our departure for at least two more days and by then our weather window to cross the gulf might be closed. Dad and I began calling every marina and every hardware store on every island we have been to in the Bahamas. No one could help us, no one had the right fan belt. Most disheartening was when we called the NAPA in Marsh Harbour and they didn't have the belt either. That was the worst news. We began thinking that we would have to get a belt shipped over from the states which would take at least a week. I know, I know, we got ourselves stuck in the Bahamas boo hoo, we are so unlucky but once you have your heart set on leaving you get this fever that nothing but the road can cure. Trying to make the best of it I took out the paddle board, got on, and barely began to paddle away when a voice came over the radio calling "Second Wind." It was the boaters we had met this morning with the friend flying in from Miami. He had found a auto store with the fan belt we needed. Things could not have turned out better.

Log book: March 23-31

Conditions: 75 degrees
Location: Hopetown

Today Dad and I woke up in Guana and had planned to go snorkeling, but sailing plans must always be adjustable. We listened to the weather and unfortunately the Abacos should be expecting fifty knot winds in just two days. Marsh Harbour has no moorings and anchoring out in fifty knot winds would be a brutal experience. Dad decided that we didn't even have time to stop at Fowl Cay to snorkel, we would have to sail straight for Hopetown, hoping to get on a mooring ball there. Hopetown Harbour is certainly a hurricane hole, with 360 degrees of protection, making it a very competitive spot for moorings. Sure enough when we got into Hopetown there wasn't a single mooring ball left. We motored around and around the harbor until finally another boater pointed out some styrofoam balls connected to a line, "this ones free," they shouted at us. Usually the lack of a large official looking mooring ball indicates that it is a private mooring, not for rent. We uneasily picked up the ball anyway and tucked in for the night, hoping that we had found somewhere we could wait out the blow. If not we would be forced to return to the sheltered harbor of Man-O-War, for my sanity this cannot occur.

Dad and I met a lot of locals in Hopetown. We got to know two of the local fisherman particularly well. Corey and JR were spear fisherman who used surface supplied oxygen to dive eighty feet deep to catch 300-500 pounds of grouper and other fish a day. They took the barbs off of their Hawaiian sling spears to ensure that if they did not immediately kill the fish at the end of their spear it would be able to get off no swim away. A struggling fish on the end of your spear is the worst thing to have an arms length from you while in the water, since sharks frequently swam toward any injured fish. But they also had skepticism that there would be a shark attack in the Bahamas. After talking to them for awhile they seemed to categorize a shark attack as merely a swimmer being grabbed off of the beach. However Corey thought it was only a matter of time before one of the stupid tourists who feed the sharks on the reef loose a hand, that didn't seem to count as an actual attack. But hat doesn't mean that they aren't afraid of them. JR often said that there is nothing to fear from a shark swimming below you, that means the shark is looking at fish below for food and not at you. When the shark is swimming above you that's when you should think of getting out of the water. I'm not so sure about this theory, but they know much more than I do. Once while Corey was diving a great shadow passed overhead, for a second he was sure a huge tiger shark was looking down on him with hungry eyes but when he looked up he saw a pod of humpback whales. They had a ton of cool fishing stories like this, and explained the ins and outs of the business down here. They even gave us about five pounds of grouper one day and took us out to the best local bars. Although Hopetown is much bigger than Man-O-War Dad and I were even more well known here. Every new person that I meet I find already knows me but just like in Man-O-War Dad and I are running out of things to do. The storm that came through was a lot less severe than predicted but the winds have still been more than twenty knots for a few days. I went for a lot of runs, walks on the beach, sails on the windsurfer and paddle board excursions to pass the time.  There are a ton of green turtles in the harbor here and I even saw a nurse shark swim under me while I was paddle boarding. I assume that the congregation of turtles is due to the jelly fish that litter the sea floor in the harbor. It took me a few days to identify them as jellyfish, they rest on the bottom with their tentacles pulsing constantly upward without leaving the sand.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Log Book: March 21st-22nd

Conditions: 5-10 knots
Location: Guana Cay

We finally made it out of Man-O-War. We hauled the boat and had the bearing replaced within the hour. The boat launch was not your typical crane but a marina railway instead. Dad told me to 'take a picture, you may never see this again.' The Tartan was pulled next to the dock while a sliding wooden frame sank into the water beneath it. Blocks built into the frame were then slid under the boat hull to support it. Then slowly a cable pulled the frame, boat included, up the railway that rose out of the water. It was a relief to finally have confidence in the engine again, we wouldn't need to worry that we would get stuck in the Bahamas. However, when we got the engine running again there was still a slight rumble around the idle. Dad and I didn't talk about it, hoping that all our pain would go away by itself but one must always be skeptical when boat problems fix themselves. That same day we left the mooring field and made it to... just outside of the harbor where eight other boats were anchored. It still felt good though to finally leave. The next morning we set sail for Guana Cay. The cruisers net, the radio show that tells all the events of the Abacos, had advertised a concert at a bar called Nippers at Guana. The band The Barefoot Man would be playing. After living the quiet life on Man-O-War for over a week Dad and I decided a concert was exactly what we needed but boy we had no idea what we were in for. We got to Guana at around one in the afternoon. There was no need to ask when or where the party started. We could her the roar of people from the boat and when we pulled the dingy up onto the beach we simply followed the sound of the music. Nippers was unlike any bar I have ever been to. They had two swimming pools, multiple decks where you could perch and people watch, an outdoor bar, and a steep staircase that led down the dunes and onto the beach. The place was crowded and would remind you of an MTV spring break party, except with senior citizens. There were Lily Pulitzer clad grandmas on the dance floor. Soccer moms were on the decks doing outrageous things to get Mardi Gras beads thrown at them. The Guinness world record holder woman with the smallest waist was wearing a leopard print one piece jump suit and flitting around the bar. There was an excessive amount of plastic parts walking about in teeny weeny bikinis, while some were the usual most consisted of hip and knee replacements. I felt like the most conservative, sheltered, New Englander ever but that didn't stop me from having a good time. Dad and I met half the bar and even found the minority of younger people, although they were still closer to thirty than to twenty. Before we knew it Dad and I were watching the sunset. We had enough fun to last us a week. The band played great music, we danced, and met some really wonderful people. We only came to Guana to have a good time, mission accomplished, so tomorrow we plan on sailing to Fowl Cay to go snorkeling and relaxing then sailing to Marsh Harbour to spend the night.

Log Book: March 11th-20th

Conditions: 75 & sunny
Location: Man-O-War part 2

Jack and Stephanie flew back to Connecticut this morning while Dad and I sailed back to Man-O-War to get the boat hauled naked the bearing fixed. Since losing our friends Dad and I already feel isolated. The Bahamas are great but as Dad says "you have to bring your own party," because there is no one else here. I can't say I was pleased to return to Man-O-War. The island is very nice but very quiet and right now I've had enough of the quiet life. When we arrived Dad was distraught to see that two boats occupied the only dry docks in the marina. Apparently when we didn't arrive at the marina yesterday (when Dad told them that we would show up) they gave our spot to someone else. It's pretty disappointing because the sailboat that scooted into the dry dock ahead of us is being painted top to bottom. The entire process will take at least a week. I know Dad doesn't want to push or even test the engine until we get it fixed aka we are stuck on a dry island for a week. Luckily Jack and Stephanie gave us their leftover rum.
It has been really hard to find stuff to do on the island but Dad and I have finally made some friends. It's a very tight knit society, everyone seems to know each other and when outsiders visit for an extended period of time, like Dad and I, they notice. Our best friend is Waskin, who works at the boat yard. He is originally from Haiti and speaks a mix of Creole and English. He likes Dad's jokes and Dad likes his unique perspective on Bahamian and Haitian culture. Many of the people living on the Bahamas are actually Haitians and the human trafficking of Haitians to the U.S. has become big problem here. Some natives say that fisherman or charter boats will quite often traffic illegal immigrants and drop them off on a beach in Florida for around 3,000 dollars. It seems that they are the more fortunate immigrants. Other Haitians get smuggled in by a family who then takes advantage of their illegal status in a sort of indentured servitude situation. While the Haitians on Man-O-War seem to be a respected and accepted part of the community on other islands they are highly discriminated against. They are often described as causing some of the lawlessness throughout the islands. Unfortunately these sentiments are widely promulgated by the Americans who make the Bahamas their winter home. As you can imagine the job market in the Bahamas limited, and Haitians also get blamed for encroaching on the low paying jobs as cheap labor. We were unable to discover the minimum wage and if it was enforced but to give you a general idea the boat that was being painted head-to-toe in the yard was being hand sanded before every coat of paint was applied. That takes a long time and presumably it was hand sanded and painted because the price of appliances and electrical cost of operation was more expensive than the manual labor.
Dad and I have made it our personal secret mission to prove that the assumptions and accusations about the Haitian population are false. It is easy to do in a place like Man-O-War because, like I said, from and outsiders perspective there seems to be little discrimination here. Waskin loves to plant in his spare time, he learned from his Dad who grows sweet potatoes and more back in Haiti. Waskin took us to his nursery where he was growing peppers, grapes, avocado, watermelon, corn, limes, peas, Palm trees, and of course bananas. Many of these plants he was growing for friends or harvesting with the intent to trade for other fruit. He gave me a lime tree and showed me how to plant and fertilize it with seaweed. Waskin dug his hands into the ground as if the dirt was merely water, clearing stones away from the earthy patches like he knew exactly where they would be. He is so familiar with the land that he knows when to move a plant, harvest a fruit, prune the foliage, or plant new seeds. I've never met someone so tuned in to nature but Waskin is frequently on one of his two cell phones, his computer, or his tablet - he's not your stereotyped treehugger.
For the natives of Man-O-War this is what the island life is all about. An old couple zooms around on their golf cart on Saturdays selling fresh loaves of bread and cinnamon rolls, something they have been doing for more than twenty years. The streets are empty and silent on Sunday except for the occasional hymn heard from the packed churches. No cat, dog, or other pet has a collar but they all belong to someone and they are known by name throughout the island. It seems like the good life, the simple life. But while growing up here, in the Bahamas, is something many might envy you only have to watch the neighborhood children playing baseball to wonder how disadvantaged they are living in such an isolated place. While breeding athletes may not be a priority I'm sure that other disadvantages translate as well. The children here run wild without shoes, supervision, or a care in the world. They have the freedom to live in a place relatively untainted by the outside world, but what opportunities are withheld from them living in such a paradise? How can they strive to be doctors, lawyers, archeologists, biologists, CEOs, even police officers when they have no representations of those actors? Which begs the question is the world, is their world a better place without these actors? Is ignorance really bliss?
For Dad and I, it's been torture. I really don't want to exaggerate but it is so so quiet here, too quiet. We did all we could to keep busy. We spent one great day snorkeling off the beach. It was awesome. The water was full of huge purple sea fans swaying in the waves. I saw a giant Caribbean lobster hiding under the rocks but also an array of fish and tons of sea urchins. Brain coral and fire coral littered the floor and most notably we saw NO sharks. The second best thing Dad and I did was go to the symphony. Waskin loves music so he came with us. The Bahamian national symphony was playing in Hopetown at the Abaco Inn. The three of us took the ferry over and met a ton of people who already knew us, like I said before the locals know the outsiders. They were all really nice but most of them were not natives but Americans who moved to the Bahamas upon retirement. Together they made a cute little clique of grandparents, calling to each other from opposite ends of the ferry, whispering, and giggling. The Abaco Inn was right on the beach and the symphony played outside. It was great to be doing something social again, but it did underscore the notion that we needed to get off Man-O-War to have a really good time.