A week and one day ago, we tore ourselves away from the comforts and conviviality of Hopetown. Listening to the Abaco cruiser’s net, as we do every morning, did not make this any easier.
What is the Cruiser’s Net, you ask? The Cruiser’s Net (CN) begins at 8:15 and broadcasts weather forecasts, announcements about local events, and “invitations,” which are really ads for restaurants around town. A couple of noble volunteers take turns anchoring the program, which lasts anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, depending on how many people are in town. That morning’s anchor, Will, whose voice and wit seem to have destined him for radio, told that the weather would be rainy for the next four to five days. He also informed us when, where, and how we could dispose of our trash, always a nuisance when you live aboard. A truck comes Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays between 8 and 10 to a specific dock. They pick up trash and recycle Bahamian beer bottles. (Don’t leave your bags there unless you see the truck, please.) Another volunteer anchor, called in to tell us about all the cool things we’d be missing if we left town: a number of country and folk bands would be performing for free at various restaurants for an entire week; the bi-weekly farmer’s market would convene the next day; and yoga classes would continue every Tuesdays and Thursdays at a beautiful art gallery on the beach.
We were tempted to stay; we love live music and relished the idea of spending more time with the people we had met in town. Our mouths watered when we thought about the delicious greens and pasta salad we bought at the last Farmer’s market, not to mention the best blueberry muffins I have ever eaten in my life. There also were other lures, not mentioned on the radio, such as the weekly writing group I had just started to attend, and a mahjongg group had recently invited me to learn the game and play with them. In addition, it was Friday night, so we’d be missing the gathering of locals at Wine Down, Sip-Sip, for happy hour. After only two and a half weeks in town, we had met many people we could imagine as life-long friends and could envision ourselves in the community. Without even noting the alluring, picturesque scenery, the pastel-painted houses, gorgeous beaches, and its candy striped lighthouse, Hopetown—especially before the season begins—is a charming, welcoming, comfortable place to spend a winter, maybe even a lifetime. But to cruisers like us, who had come south to explore places unreachable by car or commercial airplane, it also seemed a bit like the land of the Lotus-eaters, where Odysseus and his crew risked forgetting where they have come from and where they were going.
For the past week, we had discussed many good reasons to leave, but kept delaying our departure. We had to take our SSB radio, the third brand-new one to blow up on our boat, to the FedEx office in Marsh Harbor, to mail it back to the guy who installed it. We were going to be coming back to Hopetown on the 20th or so, to meet our friends on Seahorse. We needed new snorkels and the dive shop on Elbow Cay did not have the “dry” kind we wanted, but the one on Guana did. We had been exactly nowhere else in the Abacos since we arrived at Marsh Harbor on November 15, and it was high time we got out and about.
Exerting considerable willpower, we packed up the boat. We gathered up all the shells and coral pieces we had collected and put them inside our five-gallon bucket, which we had left out for washing clothes. That bucket went into the stern lazarette. I took in all the laundry, folded and stowed the dry clothes, then hung up still wet items from the finger rail down below. Then I picked the last clothespins off the lifelines and shoved them in a plastic bag in the compartment under the winches. I hauled the heavy string bag carrying potatoes, squash, and coconuts down below and tied it up where it wouldn’t swing into anything fragile. Ryan put the gin, rum, and vodka, that we leave out under the stairs heading into the hatch, into a storage locker behind the seat cushions ,and stored the smaller bottles of Braggs’ aminos, vinegar, vanilla, coconut- and tea-tree oil behind the sliding panels where we keep our dishes. I took the coffee pot and rinsed the grounds out in sea-water while Ryan washed, dried, and stowed the cups and plates from breakfast. I gathered up all the books scattered throughout the cabin and shoved them into the too-tight shelves, smoothed and stored sea-charts, the computer, our two ipads, two kindles, and iphone, under the desk at the navigation station, after coiling up all the cords and packing them into a plastic lock-n-lock bin. I stowed the bug screens in a mesh bag that gets crammed under the table next to the laundry and ditch-bag and stacked all the pillows. Finally, I put all our loose toiletries back into plastic boxes or bags and shoved them into the cabinet in the head. Then we allowed ourselves a last luxury—we dinghied over to the Hopetown Inn & Marina, whom we have paid a weekly rate for mooring, took a brief swim and then showered. Or I did.
Just as we were getting into the pool, the sky darkened threateningly. Ryan remembered that we hadn’t closed up the boat, so he jumped into the dinghy and raced the rain. Meanwhile, I enjoyed the shower. Ah! to stand in warm water instead of crouching in the cockpit with a bucket! I washed my hair twice, conditioned it, and put my wet bathing suit back on without drying off. At my insistence, we had brought only one towel, so that we wouldn’t have two wet masses getting in our way during the journey. I hung it on a rocking chair on the covered walkway near the bathrooms and stretched while watching the downpour and waiting for Ryan. He came back drenched. He had reached the boat just in time to batten both hatches and screw down all six port lights before the torrent—and it was a torrent—soaked everything inside.
The rain seemed to be in league with the lotus, luring us to stay longer in Hopetown. It roared down well after Ryan showered and emerged in clean, dry clothes. Since it made no sense to drown ourselves in the dinghy, and there was a perfectly lovely restaurant in the marina, we plopped ourselves down at the bar, ordered up a couple of chardonnays and some conch chowder for lunch. Ah! the life of the lotus-eaters! Still we remained firm, determined despite reason to go. When the rain petered out, we motored back to the boat, shook off the mooring, and headed out into the Sea of Abaco. As though trying to force us back, the rain started up again and beat hard against the dodger’s plastic window, making it hard to see ahead. Our jackets, and the bimini, the canvas roof over the wheel in the stern, kept the worst of the rain off us, but we both got thoroughly soaked within minutes. What determination!
Was it worth it? Read our next blog, Adventures on Guana Cay, to find out!