Bahamians Rock in Rock Sound

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Janice Culmer, proprietor at Sammy’s

April 2, 2016

We sailed from Eleuthera to Abaco today with no real turmoil.  The jib rolling furler failed, so we had to take the sail down and proceed with just the main.  The winds started out in the 20s and settled down to about 11 knots, with clear skies and four foot waves.  It was a bit rolly, but not too bad, sunny and pleasant.  We had to scram north while the winds were blowing that way because, as usual during this very strange winter, we were running from the wild winds.  I really wanted to stay in Rock Sound, where I spent a little bit of time with a woman who feels like a spirit sister, Janice, who runs her dad’s restaurant, Sammy’s, with a great deal of wit and skill.  It was sad to say goodbye so quickly, but the cold front coming down from Florida was going to keep us from getting north for quite a while, and we are decidedly heading north. I have mixed feelings about it. 

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Lorraine, who owns the nicest restaurant in Rock Sound, is the woman in the dark green shirt.  Her mother, who sells her amazingly good bread to cruisers and locals right from her house, pictured above.  The small girl is Lorraine’s granddauther.

I love Bahamians. And I am sad to be leaving the islands where most of the businesses are owned and run by Black women, like Lorraine’s Restaurant in Rock Sound.  The food is fabulous and the service unparalleled.  There’s also a very homey, ordinary feeling about the place.  You can go round the corner to visit with Lorraine’s mother, who bakes sweet coconut and whole-wheat bread that she sells right at her dining table.  Get there early because it sells out quickly.  While you’re waiting, you can chat with Lorraine’s granddaughter.  Four generations of strong women live next door to one another, keeping the restaurant going and working other jobs, as well.  Lorraine’s daughter has a white-collar job on the island, so her daughter stays with her great-grandmother and grandmother after school.

I’m not so happy to be returning to the Abacos, because the racial politics are so different there.  White Bahamians dominate these northern islands, even though the majority of Bahamians are Black.   Many Southern loyalists settled there after the English lost the Revolutionary War, bringing their slaves, if they had them.   Slavery was abolished here earlier than in the U.S., but the institutions–prejudice and segregation–are still felt in the Bahamas as at home.  Generally speaking, in the Abacos Whites have better jobs and there are still islands where Blacks are not welcome as neighbors, only as workers.

Consider Man-of-War, a pretty little island, to be sure, very industrious with a fantastic boatyard.  There you’ll still see the Black people stepping wearily onto the ferry at the end of the day.  They go home to their own neighborhoods on Abaco, the big island, which is segregated in many ways that tourists don’t usually see.   Throughout the mostly White, northern islands, Blacks work as gardeners, fishermen, garbage collectors, waiters.  On Eleuthera they are shopkeepers, grocers, owners of property and property-producing businesses.  Below is a photo of Rosie, who owns a gorgeous house on a cliff overlooking the sea, where she cooks up the best food on the island.

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Rosie, in the foreground, the owner of Rosie’s Northside Restaurant in Rock Sound.

 

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Abandoning the dog

January 1, 2016

I was worried about the dog, and seemed to be the only one worried.  The girls all said, “O, someone is taking care of her.  We saw lights.”  No one seemed to believe me when I said, “there is no one there.  There is no food or water.” 

I paddled ashore again and walked up to all the houses, calling loudly and knocking on doors and peering into windows.  There was not a soul, other than the dog, on island.   

I felt dreadful, dehydrated, and depressed because I could not find the dog.  Wearily I wandered back to my paddleboard, and sat on it, stupidly, wondering what to do.  I had brought food and water but hadn’t seen or heard her after an hour’s search.  She found me there, and joyfully bounced and frolicked around me on the beach. She never once jumped up on me, though.  Someone had trained her well.  She wolfed down the chicken breast I brought and sniffed around for more.  She was really, really hungry.  But not thirsty.  She didn’t want the the water, which didn’t make sense to me, as I couldn’t see where she was getting water.  I spent a long time petting her, and my hands came away blue.  Paint?

I had spoken to Muffin about the dog yesterday, and she said she had called someone who knew the owner, who said that there was a caretaker on the island.  I told her emphatically that no one was taking care of the dog or the island, and that we had been here for three days and seen no one.  So she told me to call Harold, who said he he had talked to someone who knew the caretaker and said, “the caretaker is there.”  “No, there is no one here. There has been no one here for three days, “ I insisted.  So Harold said he would come down to see for himself.  And this afternoon he did drive down in his motor boat.  He didn’t go ashore, I think, but he could tell from the lack of boats that the island was empty of humans.  But he didn’t take the dog back with him.  I wrote an email about his visit to Muffin and Will, asking them to let me know if they heard anything about the dog. 

Christmas in a strange world

December 26, 2015. 

If you are really into small-town Christmas, and are White, heterosexual, and maybe also an alcoholic, consider spending the holiday in Hopetown.  Here the locals and the cruisers build a “Christmas village” at the center of town, complete with an “ice” skating rink made of slippery plastic and plastic skates and lots of evergreen Casurina (sp?) trees stuck into the sand, tents, a manger with a white plastic Mary, Joseph, and baby, which also served as the backdrop for the stage where kids read religiously themed storeis to the crowd, gift shops that supported local charities (the school, the community center, the animal rescue leagues) and an outdoor bar where you got rosemary margeritas and a gin or vodka based Bahamian “switcha” made with sweetened sour orange juice.   Everyone is very nice and very clean and very friendly.  Ryan and I joined the carolers and enjoyed the lights and small-town cheer at the Christmas village, but frankly its a depressing holiday for me, always the seaon when I regret how far away I am from my family, not only physically but also emotionally.  It’s a very lonely time of year for many people.

We celebrated with our friends aboard “Seahorse,” Travis and Mary Fowler and four of Travis’s five daughters, Lauren, 23, Mary Kate, 16, Mary Helen, 15, and Lily, 9.  They flew down for a few weeks with their kids. 

We also met a number of other truly great and fascinating people from Canada and the UK and the US

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Interesting art on Man-O-War Cay, Bahamas.

.  The cool thing about cruising is you go around meeting people with whom you already have a lot in common, even though you may have grown up on different continents.  Most people are gregarious, open-minded, and helpful to others. Every now and then you meet folks with whom you feel a very strong connection.

While I’ve really enjoyed Hopetown and, as I’ve said in previous blog posts, can see why people sail into the harbor and stay for a lifetime, I’m happy to be moving south.  The mooring field was starting to feel very crowded, and dinghies and fishing boats and ferries and freight carriers constantly weave through the boats until well after sundown.  For the past two nights loud music from somewhere on shore or a boat somewhere in the harbor blared late into the early morning.  Many people who come and go from Hopetown are one-week vacationers chartering a boat, and they can be inconsiderate, loud, and even dangerous, when inexperienced. I’m looking forward to getting away from crowds.

Last night I met only the second solo woman cruiser since I got onto this road.  She, like eveyrone else I have encountered so far on this journey, is White, heterosexual, and Christian. Where is everybody else? There are Black people in boats but I have yet to see who cruise.  Black and White Bahamians are civil to one another but seem to live separate lives.  Nearly everyone here appears to be Christian, and most of them are Protestant.  Like the American South, from which many of the original settlers, Black and White, came in the late 18th century, this is a very stratified, homogeneous society.   

My tone may sound particularly cranky because I have been sick for the past couple of weeks, and am actually getting worse.  I think I’m anemic and have started to take iron pills.  I’m not sleeping well, am really fatigued, and get stomach cramps every time I eat.  I’ve been drinking a lot of water, and did get a nap today while Ryan went snorkeling with our friends.  I took a nap on the boat.

I don’t know when I’ll be able to connect to the internet again.  It was hard enough to do in Hopetown.  We still haven’t been able to fix our M2 Bullet and therefore have to go ashore to get a signal in a coffee shop or bar, where the connection is always extremely slow.  Even with a good connection, it takes 1 hour to upload a 15 second video, and photos are only a little bit faster. 

I’ll keep up with the blog, for the sake of discipline, I suppose.  But I’ll have to post everything all at once, and will probalby not even bother with pictures.  When you’re anchored off a gorgeous beach in turquoise water and a soft wind is blowing your hair, you do not want to be tethered to a damn machine drumming your fingers while you wait and curse and wait and curse and wait for photos to upload.  And most of the time you can’t connect at all, and you’d much rather be swimming or snorkeling or walking or paddle-boarding or reading.