Mayaguana Bahamas

Saturday we couldn’t muster up any energy to get off the boat.  Dan wasn’t feeling well.  He thought he might have the flu.  I cleaned up the boat and the kids and I went for another swim.  On Sunday, we were pretty much out of fresh food.  After making water, we decided we would walk into town and check out the grocery store, or at least find a restaurant where we could get some diet cokes and beer. There is a sort of abandoned dock in Abrams

Bay, but nothing to tie your dinghy to.  The guidebook said to take your anchor and put it into a crack in the concrete.  We did that and Dan also took the painter (rope) and tied it to a bush on the dock.  We were really secure now! 

It was a short walk into town.  Mayaguana used to be a booming island several years back when the

US had a missile tracking station there.  The island had about 3000 residents then.  When the US abandoned the facility, the people left too.  Now there are about 60 people living on the island.  The island seemed pretty poor; the houses we passed could use a lot of work. The town was quiet except for the songbirds. They serenade us as we walk past bushes bursting with fragrant flowers.  I didn’t realize how seldom I heard the birds back in the States.  From the Exuma islands south, you hear them all the time.  I make a promise that when we go back, I will take better care of the songbirds.   We didn’t see anyone out until we got closer to the church.  I waved to a man on a bicycle and asked him if a grocery store was open and he said no.  He did show me where the lady who owned it lived and I could go to her house and she would probably open the store for me.  I wasn’t about to do that.  I asked him if any place was open where we could get something to eat and he told us Paradise Villas was down the road, about 4 light posts.  We headed off.   Luckily he followed us it was tucked back behind some rundown houses and we would never have found it.  Paradise Villas is a small restaurant/bar.  As we walked inside, it was all locals, some sitting at the bar and some playing dominoes.  

The bar/restaurant was very clean and airy.  It was obvious the owner took a lot of pride in it.  We ordered some food, conch, chicken and fish and while we waited at the bar, the kids went to the restaurant and played dominoes together.  There was a big TV hanging in the corner of the bar.  After we had been there awhile, one of the younger guys with short dreadlocks, put on a movie.  Dan and I gave each other the “Here we go again” look.  Apparently, we look/act very white, because while we are enjoying the Bahamian music or enjoy watching whatever they like to watch, they always switch it to something very white.  We were in Ocean View restaurant on Rum Cay, and Miss Ruby and her helper were watching BET channel.  After we sat down, they changed it to some SCI FI channel.  At Kayes Restaurant on Rum Cay, same thing.  As soon as we sat down, they changed the channel from what they were watching and turned it to Home Alone 2.  While this is a very nice gesture, we came to experience the island, the people here and how they live, not try to fit our lifestyle into the island.  Besides, I would never watch the Sci Fi channel anywhere!  The movie they put on?  Scary Movie 3.  Ok, we hadn’t seen it before so that was fine. An American named Kenny came in and started talking to us.  He was from Cape Cod and was on Mayaguana working on the new development on the other side of the island, at Pirates Well.  The I Group had purchased a big chunk of the island and was going to build a hotel and oceanfront homes.  Kenny was running a grader, working on expanding the existing runway to serve the major airlines.  It wasn’t going too well.  When we told him we hadn’t been into the island any further than this, he offered to drive us around.  I told him that we were waiting for our dinner, but we would love to go with him after we ate.  It took awhile to get our food, but it was well worth it.  Dan and I had the fried conch and fries, Tessa had the chicken and fries and Tristan had fish and fries.  The fish was served differently from any we had ever had.  It came out on the bone with the tail still on it.  Tristan gave me a look, but didn’t say anything.  I took it from him and cleaned it off the bone.  Of course I had to have a sample.  It was without doubt, the best fish I have ever had.  It had dipped in a light batter and lightly fried. I later learned it was mutton snapper.  My conch was very good too, but there was just too much food.  We ate all that we could though.  When I came back from the restroom, Smokey, the guy with the dreadlocks was sitting at the table talking to Dan.  He owned the restaurant, having bought it from one of his brothers a few months ago.  I say one of his brothers as he has 11 brothers and 8 sisters.  He told us a little about the island and how he caught all the fish and conch for the restaurant himself.  Ever since Farmer Cay we have been trying to get another good lobster dinner.  Smokey said he would be happy to get us some lobster tomorrow.  We made plans for dinner the next night, then Dan paid the bill.  We then piled into Kenny’s truck for a trip around the island.  

Kenny was quite the tour guide.  He worked for a company in Boston, which was supposed to be consulting with the I Group.  He ended up actually running the grader, helping to expand the runway.  They were way behind schedule.  The airport was supposed to be finished by December, but there were problems. The asphalt was not up to FAA standards.  They were using machines from India and workers from China, and it wasn’t going well.  He drove us past the building where the Chinese workers, engineers and chemical guys stayed.  They never ventured from their building, he said.  A plain white building housed the Nicaraguans who had been brought in to work.  Next to it  housed the food center where the Americans and Nicaraguans ate. All these were out in the blazing sun, in the middle of nowhere.   The Americans were lucky.  They  were housed in a hotel on the beach.  The only hotel in town. 

Kenny drove on the airstrip and took us past the airplane graveyard.  There left to rot were the airplanes the US had shot down, back when Mayaguana was used as a hideout for drug runners. 

 

 

He showed us the site of the new terminal which would replace the old one consisting of a building the size of a closet, and 4 plastic chairs sitting in the hot sun. He even took us to his hotel and showed us around there.  It was fun. I think he was getting anxious to get back to the States as he had been in Mayaguana 3 weeks without a break.  He was very surprised and a envious when he found out we were living on our sailboat.  He was a big lover of cruises and had 2 planned in the next 6 months.  He was a really nice guy, and went out of his way to take us all around the island.  When he dropped us off at the dock, we promised to buy him a beer if we saw him at the bar again. 

We were tired and happy as we headed our dinghy out to Alegria.  Because it was so shallow close in, Alegria was anchored about a mile off shore.  She looked beautiful anchored all alone, surrounded by the lightest blue water you could imagine.  We were talking and laughing as we came alongside Alegria in the dinghy.  From the direction we came from, you couldn’t see the back of our boat.  As we motored along I pointed a small boat far off in the distance.  I assumed they must be fishing.  As we turned the dingy around the back side of Algeria, we were surprised to see a Bahamian, sitting on the platform steps, holding a spear gun.  At first I was a little startled.  It’s not everyday you come home to find a big man with a spear gun sitting on your porch!  I think we startled him too. 

 “Hello” he quickly called out.

“You scared me!”  I replied.

He apologized and explained that his boat, the small boat I saw way out in the bay, had run out of gas.  He had swam over to our boat for help as it was getting late in the afternoon.  It was getting close to shark feeding time so he brought the spear gun for protection.   It was a long, long swim to our boat and I could tell he was exhausted.  I asked him how we could help.  He needed gas.  His buddy was still on the boat. No problem.  Tessa and I got onto Alegria while Dan grabbed our extra gas can, then helped our visitor into the dinghy.  When Dan and Tristan arrived at his boat, the other guy was very happy to see them.  They were very grateful and offered Dan some conch, but he said no, that he was happy to help.  When Dan told me that, I told him I would have liked some conch.  But he made a good point in saying he didn’t want them to think he was doing it to get something back.  But if they had offered him lobsters?

Overnight Passage to Mayaguana

We left early Thursday morning heading toward Mayaguana.  We had wind on the nose, as usual, so we couldn’t sail.  We were going to have to do what Dan really didn’t want to do, and that was motor for about 30 plus hours.  To cut down on the stress on the engines, we would alternate shutting each one down for a few hours during the overnight passage.  Actually when we left, I wasn’t prepared for us to do an overnight. We were going to try it but if it felt bad, we would try to bailout at another island.  When we got out there the swells were 6 to 7 feet, about 9 seconds apart, so not too bad, though Tristan started feeling bad right away.  I gave him and Tessa some motion sickness medicine.  I hate to give it to them as it makes them very tired and they end up sleeping most of the day.   We saw one cargo ship early on and that was the only boat we saw during the day.  The weather was good early on, but later the storms started showing up on the radar.  Dan did a great job of watching the radar and skirting around them.  As we passed Samana they increased.

   About 9:00 there was lightening all around us.  The kids were in the cockpit as it was hot inside the boat.  Tristan didn’t like the lightening.  It didn’t seem to bother Tessa. (nothing seems to bother her!)  I decided this would be a great time to take their minds off the storm with a movie.  Luckily we have portable DVD players and we huddled up with the lightening flashing around us and watched “The Mummy Returns” for about the 10th time.  I only lasted the first 30 minutes then I lay down to sleep before my watch.  Since it was so rough, we decided we would sleep in the cockpit.  We all had our harnesses on.  When I woke up, about 11:00 pm, I had the strangest sensation of someone else being on the boat with us.  It was very weird.   As I tried to clear my head, I saw a big cargo ship passing close to us on our starboard side.  I asked Dan if the boat had seen us, and Dan said he had called him on the radio and the captain knew we were there.  He could have given us a wider berth.  The kids were asleep.  I had the 11:00pm to 3am shift.   Dan had done a great job of watching the radar and maneuvering us away from the storms.  The seas were still high, but the radar looked clear as I took over.  On all sides of us, the moon was hidden by clouds, but right above the top of the mast was clear skies filled with hundreds of stars.  It was so beautiful.I wasn’t sure how I would feel about an overnight passage.  We had some night sailing as we crossed the gulf, but this was true overnight.  I loved it.The storms, the waves, the energy was just incredible. I loved feeling that I had the ocean to myself for miles.  In the wake of the boat I could see sparks, like little sparkling diamonds in the water.  It is really the bioluminescence churned up by the boat in the water and it is a great reward for having watch on a night passage.  

Halfway through my watch another storm showed up on the radar.  I just squeaked by having it pass us within a half mile.  The wind picked up, but no rain.  Just as it slid past us and I was breathing a sigh of relief, the wind changed direction and was pushing the storm back toward us.  Luckily it missed us the second time too.  Dan woke up about 3:15 and took over while I went back to sleep.  When I woke up again, I had the same sensation of someone else being on the boat.  It is hard to explain but I could just feel someone else there.  The kids were still sound asleep.  I got to see a beautiful sunrise on my 6:00 am to 9:00 am watch.  I am more of a night person and very rarely see the sunrise so this was a treat.  It was a pretty red sky that morning so I was prepared for more storms that day.  Dan took over at 9:00 am and the kids were still sleeping.  Two boats showed up on our radar, one was a large cargo ship that passed in front of us.  We hit our last storm that afternoon as we were headed into Mayaguana. Dan was again able to maneuver us around it.  I love having the radar.  I cannot imagine trying to sail in storms without it. 

On the charts Abrams Bay is a minefield of coral heads.  I had to be up front on watch again as we dodged coral for about an hour.  We were rewarded though with a beautiful anchorage all to ourselves, and about 6 feet of crystal clear water beneath the keels. 

We were exhausted, but the Tessa and I couldn’t wait to get into the water.  Within moments she was diving for sand dollars.  We had a light dinner and were in bed early that night. 

Rum Cay Bahamas

 

Our two days at Rum Cay turn into two weeks.  We all had the best time!!  We couldn’t get a weather window to sail and by waiting longer, Hurricane Dean showed up, so we decided this was the best place to be.  The marina has a pretty good hurricane hole so we weren’t worried.  We just took a break and enjoyed the island.  Dan stayed busy fixing Kathy and Bill’s computer problems and fixing the wireless internet at the marina.  Cathi and Melanie took me and the kids to beautiful North Beach to swim.  The evenings were filled with more fish dinners, much laughter and 3 Texas Hold’em poker nights.  Dan won the second place pot on the last night. 

By the second week we got smart and rented a four wheel drive golf cart.  We had a blast exploring the island.  The island is big, but only sparsely settled.  The Montana Group bought the marina and is building a new marina and a huge resort complex.  It is a very ambitious project and it will be interesting to see how far it goes.  There are so many rocky trails to explore by golf cart and you are rewarded with the most diverse, beautiful beaches.  They even have surfing!!  Scattered throughout the island are remains of the Loyalist plantations.  It is amazing to see the rock walls still holding up after all these years.  We really feel at home here.  Our day consists of stopping at Strachans for Gatorade or water and ice cream, taking the golf cart on back trails, stopping at Ocean View for cold drinks and TV and back to the docks for the fresh catch of the day. Dan became known as the “Crab Man”  for catching the largest land crab on the island.  He did it while on the electric golf cart that Bill and Kathy let us use.  He saw this huge crab crossing in front of him and he wanted to bring it back to show the kids.  He found a stick and got the crab to latch onto it, and then he threw him in the basket in the back of the golf cart.  Unbeknown to him, as he was driving the crab was crawling out of the basket and climbing up the back of the seat where he was sitting.  Luckily Andrews, the local policeman, drove up behind him.  He pulled Dan over, saving him from a very nasty set of pinchers!!  Andrews told him that was the biggest land crab he had ever seen.  He joked that he should arrest him for catching the island’s patriarch.  Luckily Andrews had a bucket in his car and he gave that to Dan to put the crab in.  After the kids all got a good look, Dan let Andrews have the crab to eat.  He was very happy and promised to bring peas and rice with crab in it to the dock the next night.    

The island people are very friendly, and on our third stop at Ocean View, Miss Ruby brings out cookies for us.  We love it here.  Marcia and Adrian do a great job running the marina and I feel bad for the long hours they work.  They are never too busy to stop and visit with you though!  Our last night there, Brian, Cathi’s husband picked us up to take us to Ocean View for Miss Ruby’s buffet.  Since his truck was small, the kids and I rode on the golfcart with Marcia and Adrian.  The buffet was a treat.  Curried grouper, Turtle Parmesan, roast beef, turkey, ham, barbeque chicken, crab salad, potato salad, fruit and coconut cake for desert.  It was a great way to end our stay.

Melanie and Glen left first to head to Nassau then back to Florida, and there were lots of tears as Melanie and I said goodbye.  They were so generous to invite us into their “family” and share their fish with us everyday.  We had some good talks, and Tessa and Chance became really good friends. We were very lucky to meet them.    The next night was more tears as I said goodbye to Marcia and Cathi.  They both have funny stories of living on the island, and kept me laughing. Cathi, don’t ever lose your island spirit!  Bill and Kathy had left a day earlier to go to

Nassau.  They were great to invite us and our kids to their house.  Kathy some great pictures of all of us, and shared some of her precious shell collection with Tessa.  Our kids thought they were great.   So did we.  We had some great times on the island and we will always be thankful for the hospitality, laughter, friendship and great food shared by all of them.   

 

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