Seahorse Rescue

Well, it has been an exciting two days.  We came back to Marsh Harbour to finish the boat polishing that we had started last week.  Halfway through the job the guy had to stop due to a torrential downpour.  He told us he could finish it on Wednesday, his next day off.  So on Tuesday we anchored in Marsh

Harbour.  Dan, and Tristan and I had an appointment to get our hair cut. As we were getting into the dingy that morning to go into town, I noticed something small and gray floating in the water next to the dingy.  We were in a hurry as we were running late so I didn’t pay too much attention to it.  Suddenly Tessa points to it and yells, “Seahorse!  Mom it’s a seahorse!”

Sure enough it was a seahorse floating on its side.  I assumed it was dead as I couldn’t imagine why it would be on the surface and on its side.  I scooped it up in my hands so at least we could get a close-up of it.  When he was in the palm of my hand, he started moving, stretching his head up and uncurling his tail.  He was alive!  And he was adorable. 

“Can we keep him?”  Always Tessa’s first thought. 

“No.’’ But instinctively I know that he can’t float on top of the water like this. Something must be wrong.  I can’t just drop him back in the harbor because I am sure he will die.  “Quick get a bucket.” I yell to Tessa.  She grabs the nearest one and I fill it with seawater.  Tessa holds the seahorse in her hand for a moment then gently sets him in the water. He swims a bit, then stops but remains straight up.  A good sign!  We hate to leave him, but we are late for our appointment.   

Last time,  Dan and Tristan had their hair cut at the black barbershop.  This time they are joining me at the white beauty salon.  The salon was recommended to me by Carolyn on Prima.  She had gotten a great haircut there so I thought I would give them a try.  They were very nice and managed to squeeze all three of us in at the last minute.  The shop was like any Supercuts in the US and had two stylists cutting hair and the owner managed the front desk.    Dan and Tristan went first and she did a really nice job.  As she is cutting my hair, her sister comes in.  She is trying to fill out some medical forms and needs some help.  It soon becomes a group effort for the entire beauty salon.  It becomes obvious that everyone in the shop knows more of her medical history than she does.

 

“Don’t forget to put down….” says the woman cutting my hair.  “Remember you had…..” says the other stylist.   “You’ve got to tell them about….” reminds the customer under the dryer.  No one seems to be worried about medical privacy.

“Tell them there are no more toys in the playpen,” adds her sister.   Hmm.   This is a medical condition I am unfamiliar with.

“I don’t have room to write that here,” (here comes out “heeahh.”  White Bahamians have an accent that is very close to a

New England accent.)

“Make sure they know yah still have the playpen.”

I am baffled.  Toys? Playpen?  Finally I realize they are talking about a hysterectomy.  I find it very surprising that all of these women here are in their 30’s and have had a hysterectomy.  That seems a bit odd to me. 

“Write hysterectomy.”

“I don’t know how to spell it.”

“Ask Ginene.  She knows.”

Ginene, hiding under the dryer, is trying to hard not to get involved in a spelling bee.  When it seems no one is going to come up with the correct spelling I help out.

“H Y S T..”  I begin.

She cuts me off “Wait.  H…  Y…”

I nod and continue “H Y”

She pauses and gives me the deer in headlights look. I think she is having trouble with my accent.   I try again “H………  Y”

Finally we connect and get it right.

“Make sure you tell them it was only a pahtial (partial)”

“And it was experimental”

I spend the next 45 minutes learning more about medical procedures in Bahamas than I ever care to know. But my haircut is fantastic!  Great day so far!

 

Back at the boat our seahorse seems to be settling in just fine.  He has found a spot to cling to on the side of the bucket.  The bucket is yellow and he appears to be changing colors to better fit in.  I pick him up gently in my palm.  I love seahorses.  Never in my life have I thought I would see one outside of an aquarium, let alone hold one.  In my hand he arches his back and stretches out his tail.  As I hold him he lets out a high pitched clicking sound.  We later find out that they communicate by rubbing the sides of their head together making a clicking sound.  He has a small fin on either side of his head that he uses to propel himself through the water.  His eyes are open, watching me.  His head slopes down to a long graceful snout which he uses to suck in food.  He is part miniature dragon, part miniature horse.   He is truly magical!!

I am anxious to get on the internet to find out where is best to release him.  We are heading into the marina so the guy can finish waxing our boat.  Also we have a guy scheduled to go up the mast to fix our VHF antennae which has not worked right since we started the trip.  Oh, and the refrigerator is still not working.

 

It takes all day to get the boat polished.  We did some research on the seahorse and seems they are found in grassy areas and reefs.  I am not about to put him back into Marsh Harbour as it is not that clean, but would like to take him the next day (it is too late today) to Mermaid Reef.  When I talked to another boater, Chris on Hogfish about it later that night, he tells me not to leave the seahorse there.  The other fish will eat it.  He says I need to find a grassy spot, like in Hopetown.  Well, we aren’t planning to go to Hopetown anytime soon so I have to find a new plan.  I am starting to get worried about the seahorse for two reasons.  One because they say they mate for life.  If they lose a mate it takes them a long time, maybe never, to find another one.  That makes me very sad.  I am wondering if somewhere there is another seahorse waiting for him to come home.  Scared that maybe her mate has been eaten by a fish or met with some other disaster.    Maybe we should go out in the dinghy and search the harbor? Where would I start?  Tristan lost his sandal in the harbor the other day and we couldn’t find it.  If I can’t find a men’s size 3 sandal I am sure I will have no luck with a 4 inch long seahorse!  The other thing is that because they are so small, seahorses need to eat constantly.  They eat by anchoring themselves on grass or coral in the water and sucking in their food through their snout, as it goes by.  By now it is the next day and at a minimum he has not eaten in 24 hours. 

The guy who is fixing our antennae has shown up and we can’t leave our boat until he is done.  I am very worried.  He needs to eat.  On the internet it says they eat brine shrimp.  I look in our canned goods.  No brine shrimp. Didn’t think I would find any.   We do have canned crab meat.  I decide to try it.  As I drop the crabmeat into the bucket I see that the seahorse is now lying at an angle instead of straight up and down.  He shows no interest in the crabmeat.  Not good!!   Hold on little guy!!!   I decide to call the bait shops to look for shrimp.  I call National Marine first and ask if they have bait.  They do but no brine shrimp.  They suggest I call the fish house.

“Hello is this the fish house?”

“Yes”

“Do you sell brine shrimp?”

“Hold on”  Someone else comes to the phone.

“Fish House”

“Do you have brine shrimp?

“Brine shrimp?”  he asks incredulously.  “You mean bait?”

“Well yeah, I guess they are used for bait.” I answer.

“No ma’am.  We don’t sell bait.  Did you try National Marine?”

“They told me to call you.”

“No.  We have shrimp. Nice eating shrimp though.”

“I need brine shrimp.  You see I have seahorse to feed and they say they eat brine shrimp.”

“No sorry.  No brine shrimp.”

I thank him for his time and get back on the internet.  Aha!  They also eat mysid shrimp.

I grab the phone. 

“Hello Fish House.”

“Hello.  Do you have mysid shrimp?”

“Hold on.”  The same guy comes to the phone.

“Fish House.”

“Um yes.  I called earlier.  Do you have any mysid shrimp?”

“Mysid shrimp?”  I know he thinks I am crazy.  “Isn’t that bait?”

We have been down this road before.  “Yes, I guess it can be used for bait.”

“We don’t sell bait here.  You can call National Marine.”

“I know.  They don’t sell it either.  They told me to call you.  Any idea who might have some?”

“No.  If you need shrimp we have nice shrimp though.”

“I  know but I need mysid shrimp.  See I have this seahorse and I need to feed him.”

“Oh,” he replies.  “I am sorry.  Don’t have that.”

I hang up in despair.  It is now after 12:00.  We don’t have much time.  Finally the guy is done installing the antennae.  We grab the seahorse and load up the dinghy.  He looks lifeless.  We are going to take him out of the harbor and around the corner where there is a grassy spot about a mile and a half away.  The wind has kicked up so we are in for a soggy wet ride.  As we motor along, the rough waves kick up the water and bits of crabmeat that have settled on the bottom of the bucket.  Suddenly the seahorse starts sucking up the crabmeat bits that are swirling around him.  He is eating them as fast as he can. He only eats live food and the fact that the boat ride is making them swirl in the bucket, he thinks they are alive.  It’s a miracle!!  Excitedly we stop in a grassy area.  It is low tide so the water less than a foot deep. Tessa has her goggles on prepared to snorkel in 8 inches of water.  I have our underwater camera ready so I can get some pictures of him in his new home.  We all say our goodbyes.  As soon as I set him in the grass he nearly disappears.  Seahorses can take on the color of their surroundings.  We catch one more glimpse of him and I manage to get a few pictures.  Then he disappears blending into the sea grass as if he was never there.    We miss him already.   Oh by the way, after looking on the internet, we discovered he was a SHE. 

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Marsh Harbour Abacos Bahamas

Magnificat waved to us as they left for Hilton Head today.  We are sad to see them go but we are very glad that we met them.  They are such a fun couple.  We will miss them and Mexican Train dominoes!   Luckily they live in South Carolina so if we don’t see them here next year we will visit them there. 

Marsh Harbour Abacos

Today was a recovery day for us. We stayed in the boat and played the game Dred Pirate for about 4 hours. As we were finishing, Magnificat called us. They were pulling into Marsh

Harbour to spend the night at the marina before heading back to Hilton Head. This was a nice surprise as we had not seen them in a while. We met them at the Conch Inn pool. They brought Margaritas and chips for the adults and oranges (which actually turned out to be really sweet grapefruit) for the kids. Tessa immediately took off with Rusty, introducing him to the entire marina and while Tristan played in the pool, we caught up. Maria was very excited as she found out recently her daughter is getting married.
The day before we had spent a long hot day in Marsh Harbour. We walked in the first time to get groceries. This is the part I dread the most. Marsh Harbour has the biggest grocery stores, but they are also the farthest away. We walk into town, the usual hottest part of the day and head to the store. The store is about 4 long blocks from where we leave our dinghy and you have to cross busy streets to get there. It seems it is always 90 degrees and rush hour when we go. There are no sidewalks so we have to keep a constant vigil on the kids.
Groceries in the Bahamas are not cheap. You’ve heard of the CPI (consumer price index), used to keep track of food prices? Well we use the SSS index (salsa, soda, spray cheese). We have found prices for these vary widely in the Salsa ranges from $6.99 at Green Turtle to $5.49 at Marsh Harbour. And apparently the can of spray cheese is made of gold as it is $7.99!

But even worse than the prices is the fact that we have to carry it back. We bring along bags and backpacks but it is still an ordeal. It is the same story every time we go. The Haitian bagboy pushes our overloaded cart outside into the blazing heat, mystified about our intentions. This is where the circus begins. Tristan complains that we bought too much. Tessa insists she can’t carry the paper towels. I threaten next time bring the duct tape and tape them to her body. I whine for a taxi. Captain Bligh (Dan) insists taxis are too expensive. (We have never priced a taxi ride to the grocery store but apparently he is psychic.) It is at this time I choose to remind him of the fact that I didn’t leave my job as senior vice president to schlep groceries across the surface of the sun. The bagboys enjoy the show.

Eventually we whittle down an entire cartload into three backpacks and several shoulder bags. The can of pineapple juice threatens the eggs, the milk has somehow inverted itself and begins a rhythmic drip which will of course seek out anything that needs to remain dry and there was never any real hope for the bananas. But we pull through as a team, shoulder our produce and begin our journey. I have to give the kids a lot of credit because after the initial complaints, they are great about carrying the bags. In fact, Tristan always tries to carry the heaviest bag for me. About 2 blocks into it, we start getting cocky.
We are near the discount beer and liquor store. A six pack of beer most places is $14.00, here we can get it for $10.00. So, we walk a block out of our way, drop our bags, head into the store and buy more. It is still a mystery how this new purchase makes it back to the dinghy but somehow we make it. Then it is back to the boat where we begin taking everything from its packaging. Anything in cardboard boxes (cereal, mac and cheese, etc.) comes out of the box and into zip locks or clear canisters and the meat is sealed in a food saver. It takes about an hour.

We had to go back into town that day to run some more errands and by the time we got to the boat the second time about 4:00pm, we were exhausted. But Fred and Kathy called us on the VHF to ask us to join them at Junkanoo, so 2 hours later we were back into town.

The Junkanoo is held every Friday in Marsh Harbour. It is really a great time. We got there about 7:00pm and ate some delicious cracked lobster. The kids had a great time with the kid’s activities, musical chairs, the three legged race, and the potato sack race. We also got to see the beautiful Junkanoo parade costumes up close. The detail and time that goes into these costumes is amazing. The base is cardboard and wire and covered with crepe paper and silver or gold beads. Tessa was taking to a girl her age, admiring the costume she was going to wear. It was beautiful, blue and white with silver beads and it fit over her shoulders and hung down in front and back. It looked very heavy! Tessa showed me a beautiful pink and white junkanoo hat with silver beads that she was holding. You can see how much time went into the making of it. After admiring it I told her to please put it back carefully as these were the costumes they use in the parade that night. The dad of the girl she had been talking to said “No, that is hers to keep. I gave it to her.”
I was amazed by his generosity. Of course we all had to take turns trying on the hat and decided that it looked the best on Tessa first and Fred second. At 8:00 pm the parade started. The music was great. Cowbells, drums, whistles, the beat resonated throughout your body. You could not help but be moved by it. The parade made its way through the grounds then turned around. Everyone was welcomed to participate. The kids and I joined in along with a lot of other people. We had so much fun.

Tessa looked fabulous in her junkanoo hat. During carnival the Junkanoo parade lasts from midnight until dawn. Thankfully ours was much shorter or we wouldn’t have made it. When the parade ended, we stayed until about 9:30 listening to music. After that we were just too tired. Instead of walking back, we took a taxi. Kathy asked the taxi driver if it was ok to have a beer in her taxi. “Go ahead,” she said. “I’m having one.”

As we left the crowds started coming in. People with young children were just arriving. Even though the official start time is 6:00pm, the locals don’t come until about 10:00pm, and the party really takes off around midnight. She told us we should have stayed longer as the main entertainment was the dancers and singers they brought in from Nassau. One guy was famous as the glass eater. I was really sorry to miss that one! Maybe next time.

 

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