A Story about Rock Sound

IMG_6015Here’s a good story about Rock Sound, told to me by woman who has cruised there.  A single-hander went to the bank, withdrew 500 dollars, which she put  in her backpack.  Then she went for a hike with a friend, leaving her pack by the path.  When the returned, the money was gone.  They went to the police station to report.  The police chief directly drove out into the community and interviewed some kids who had been hanging around the scene of the crime.  They described the other kids they had seen there.  Within half an hour, the police chief knew the names of the culprits.  She demanded that they produce themselves, their parents, and the 500 dollars in her office, in ten minutes.  The woman who lost the money did not believe that they would show up.  But the kids showed up, heads down, with their parents, and 450 dollars.  One of the kids was a cousin from Nassau.  The police chief told him he was banned from the island, and got the parents to agree.  Then the kids started to file out the door, heads down.  “O, I’m not finished with you yet,” she called out.  Then she handed them pails and mops and put the kids to work, swabbing the halls, cells, and bathrooms at the jail.  Then she made them wash her car.  That’s the way Rock Sound rolls.

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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.

 

Spontaneous Jazz

March 31

Governer’s Harbor

Wow!  We are listening to an outstanding live jazz from a gazebo about a hundred yards from where we’ve anchored our boat in Governor’s harbor.  This is by far the best live music we’ve heard in the Bahamas.  We got here this afternoon, dropped the hook, invited our friends from Valinor and our new friends from Pearl for cocktails, had a wonderful little party, and now the sun has set and this amazing band started playing.  The acoustics are fabulous, clear, acute.  The vocalist is Gabrielle Saveli, or something like that.  She’s great, so much better than Diana Krall.  Governer’s harbor turns out to be pretty sophisticated.  We’ll have to spend more time here next time we come down.   Eleuthera is amazing.  We cam here from our favorite place in the Bahamas, Rock Sound, where one of my spirit sisters lives and runs a restaurant called Sammy’s.  Have you ever had that experience?  When you meet someone who you know will be your friend for life?  You just know. IMG_6008.JPG

Reading Melville at Sea: On women and chapter six

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The women of New Bedford, Ishmael informs us, bloom only in summer and their bloom is unmatched everywhere except in Salem, where

The young girls breathe such musk, their sailor sweethearts smell them miles off shore, as though they were drawing nigh the odorous Moluccas instead of the Puritanic sands.

Is this some elaborate, juvenile joke whereby Ishmael means to say that women smell like fish ?  Or that for all they look to be of an entirely different species—the pale, blue-eyed Puritan species, they smell just the same as the darker girls in the Spice islands?  He is speaking of ambergris, which was obtained from Sperm whales and used by perfumers after it had aged.  When it first comes out of the whale’s gastrointestinal tract, it smells like faeces. 

Like the women of New Bedford, the  women of Spanish Wells also seem to bloom only in summer, and when they are young, they appear to do very little other than strike fetching poses while seated next to young men driving boats.  For example, as we exited Channel Cut—which is nerve-wracking because the current rushing through it is so strong, and the channel between the coral on both sides so narrow, that it is only safe to go through it at slack tide— we saw a small fishing boat come roaring out behind us.  The young man standing on the bow, with one hand locked into the painter as though he were riding a bronco, the other ready with a spear, could have been one of the Pequod’s crew.  The other young man at the helm steered the tiny craft straight into the waves with what seemed an insane speed.  And the girl?  She just sat there, utterly passive, indifferent to the brave action around her, completely useless!  She might as well have been a statue.  And so common!  I found it very strange that I did not see a single woman driving a boat, not even a dinghy.

Ishmael takes a stroll around New Bedford and admires the strangers from distant shores he sees there: “actual cannibals chatting at street corners; savages outright; many of whom carry on their bones unholy flesh.” I wonder if vegans look at those of us who rejoice as we sink our teeth into bloody, red flesh, find it amazing that we, too, walk around in public, unhindered?  Do they regard us as savages? But that is the point Melville is making, isn’t it?  That the very people who think of themselves as refined and civilized are, in fact, quite brutal and bloodthirsty? 

Consider Ishmael’s observation that all the lovely, tidy mansions in the town have been “harpooned and dragged up hither from the bottom of the sea.”  He reminds us that the tidy, civilized life on shore comes not just from the unruly, savage life on the sea, but also from the labors of the dark “savages” who toil on the ships owned by the White men on land. 

Dived or Dove?

It has come to my attention that some of my friends who sail and snorkel might be wondering whether or not to say “dived” or “dove.”   If you dive on your anchor or mooring ball, as we do often, and are actually confused, you have good reason!  The usage is somewhat murky, as the waters around anchors and mooring balls tend to be (unless you are in the Exumas, of course).  So, what’s correct?

The most correct usage is dive, dived, dived.  I will dive on the anchor. I did dive on the anchor.  I dived on the anchor.  I have dived on the anchor.

The reason you might be confused is that, in the United States and Canada, the usage of “dove” has become more acceptable.  So, for example, it is also correct, in speech more than in writing, to say, “I dove on the anchor.”  That is perfectly okay.

It is not correct to say, “I did dove” or “I have dove”.  That sounds wrong to me, obviously wrong.  But I frequently hear people ask, “have you dove on the anchor?”  This only makes sense if you are so accustomed to the colloquial usage of the word “dove” to indicate the simple past tense, as in “I dove down to the bottom.”  That latter phrase is fine, but it is not correct to say, “I have dove,” or to ask someone if she or he has already “dove” down to the bottom.

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Black Point.  Great town.  Mostly Black, too.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rock Sound Rocks.

We scoffed when our Cruising Guide said that Rock Sound was going to be Eluthera’s Staniel Cay, because we thought the former town was so sleepy. But I tell you, Rock Sound is way nicer than Staniel Cay, and a lot more affordable. If you are in the area, and you are a cruiser, you don’t want to miss it.

“Mirth, admit me of thy crew”   John Milton.

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Three graces: Sue, Francie, and Holly at Rosie’s Northside Restaurant, Rock Sound, Eluthera

We scoffed when our Cruising Guide said that Rock Sound was going to be Eluthera’s Staniel Cay, because we thought the former town was so sleepy.  But I tell you, Rock Sound is way nicer than Staniel Cay, and a lot more affordable.  If you are in the area, and you are a cruiser, you don’t want to miss it.

The extremely friendly locals walk right up to you in the market, or in the lane, to welcome you to their town.   There is a very cool Blue hole, a natural inland salt lake fed by underground tunnels and underwater caves.  There are hundreds or thousands of fish in there.  And you can swim with them.  IMG_5215

Be sure to visit Sammy’s restaurant for outstanding conch fritters, fish, souse, and ribs, and talk to Sammy’s daughter Janet, who loves to talk politics.  She claimed that “all Bahamians” stand in horror of Trump.  We assured her that we felt the same way and are convinced that he could never be elected.  She loved it when we said that we believe that President Obama is the best president we have ever had, and the first one to make us feel proud to be Americans.

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Jan and Rosie at Sammy’s

We were here with five boats, and ten delightful people who feel like friends.  We passaged from Abaco to Eluthera with Bobby and Francie on Barefootin’, and got to know their friends Holly and Rob on Hampshire Rose at Royal Island.  At Rock Sound we also met Irene and Phil on the wonderfully named Plan B as well as Sue and Steve on Peregrine.  All these folks and we walked across the island to Rosie’s Northside restaurant for excellent, traditional Bahamian fare and a gorgeous view of the ocean.

Sue, Francie, and Holly at Rosie’s Northside Restaurant

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Rosie’s dog relaxing on the raked sand in the bar at Rosie’s Northside Restaurant on Rock Sound
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Rosie and Alice preparing a meal for us at Rosie’s Restaurant
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Rosie’s Northside Restaurant, which overlooks the ocean on Eluthera
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Irene and Phil.  Phil’s shirt reads, “My I Aint Gonna Do Nothin’ All day T-Shirt”
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Steve and Sue
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Bobby and Francie at Wild Orchids in Rock Sound

DERECHO!!!

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You can’t see the rain sheeting down here, or get a sense of how rough the water was.  But it’s the only picture I had time to take!   Royal Island, near Eleuthera.  January 7, 2016

On January 6, 2016, we expected a “big blow” with winds shifting through all directions except Southeast.  We took shelter in the very well protected harbor at Royal Island, near Spanish Wells and Eleuthera.   Sophia is 36 feet long and weighs 13,500 pounds—pretty light in comparison to many bluewater yachts.  We have great ground tackle—a 33 pound Rocna and 100 feet of 3/8 inch chain attached to 150 feet of a 5/8 inch nylon rode.   We sheltered in the north west corner, in front of the biggest hill on the island.  We set anchor, let out all the chain, set a snubber, dove on the anchor, saw it solidly in the ground, and kept a close watch all day.  We didn’t budge an inch and felt quite relaxed when we finally turned out the light around “cruiser’s midnight,” 9pm.  We were in for our first big cruising lesson.   

“Bam!”  “Bam!”  Silence.  I awakened at about 10:30pm.  This was a new sound.  “Bam!”  “Bam.”  Something was hitting our hull.  Could it be waves? I wondered.  “Ryan!  do you hear that?” “What?”  “Bam!”  “That!”  He bounded out of bed. The winds were screaming overhead the air was thick with electricity.   I raced to the cockpit and could not believe what I saw.  We had dragged about 200 feet, right past another boat, and stood 10 feet from the rocky shore with 1.5 feet of water under our keel.   Our hull had been hitting either the sand, or rocks, or something else.  Royal Island harbor is littered with old cars and other metal trash. 

Sheer terror. Adrenaline shot through me, clouding my mind, making my hands shake.  Think! I clawed open the stern lassarette and pressed the engine warm-up button, counting with ragged breaths—never had 15 seconds passed so slowly.  The engine roared on  Ryan took the helm and drove us away from the rocks while I scampered up to the bow, shivering in underwear and tee-shirt.  It was impossible to see, and we had to rely on flashlight signals to communicate about the operation of the windlass.  I had to put down my flashlight to get the snubber off the chain. “I. HATE. THESE. THINGS!” I remember screaming as I urged the metal hook around and off the links.  

Finally we got the anchor up and motored to the other end of the harbor.  This was a terrifying journey,  because not all the boats had their anchor lights on and we couldn’t see where we were going.  My eyes were playing tricks on me.  I saw two boats where there was only one—later I realized it was a ketch, and it was so difficult to think!  Ryan stayed calm, fortunately, and shouted, “here!  we’re dropping the anchor here!”  We let out all 100 feet of chain plus an 25 feet of line, in 10 feet of water.   We were far too agitated to sleep, and finally took turns watching until morning, which came slowly.

The weather got worse the next day.  It rained so hard that the bimini leaked, especially right over the wheel and chart plotter, making it malfunction.  We clamped a plastic Ikea bag over it, lifting up the edges to see the chart, and stayed soaked for hours while the storm raged around us.  The wind roared at 40 knots per hour for much of the afternoon, and gusted above 50.  A neighboring boat dragged a couple hundred feet.  We sighed with relief when they stablized their position, not far from our stern.  We monitored the wind gauge and our breadcrumbs on the chart plotter, watching, watching.  My skin crawled with anxiety.   It was impossible to settle down, even though there was nothing to do but watch, watch, watch and watch. 

I attempted to calm myself by tidying and eventually felt comfortable enough to start a lasagna.  Just as the sauce was starting to bubble, Ryan informed me, “we’ve dragged 40 feet.”  FREAK!  went my system.  But I calmly  turned off the burner, put on my rain gear, and went above.  It was time to learn how to set a second anchor.  Our second anchor is a 23 pound Fortress on 30 feet of 3/8 inch chain and 200 feet of 5/8 inch rode.  The Fortress is actually designed for the messy, slimy sand we were sitting on.   Setting it seemed like a good idea, but only after a nervous discussion. By this point, Murphy’s law seemed to be in play—if it could go wrong, it would.  We didn’t carry on for any length of time, as the winds were still wailing and the rain was still sheeting, thunder was booming, lightining was flashing, and we were dragging.  By this point, we were fully suited up in foul weather gear with harnesses ready to clip into the jack lines.  We set the second anchor.  And we held.

And we held.  Ryan seemed to relax finally, but I couldn’t unwind, even when the winds finally went away at midnight or so.   I sat up reading and checked our position every hour or so. And we held.  Finally, around five in the morning, I allowed myself to sleep. 

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Relatively peaceful waters at Royal Harbor after the gale.  January 8, 2016..  

Chris Parker wrote, “In 13 years, I don’t think I’ve seen an event like this in the Bahamas.  He said it may have been a Derecho, essentially a “self sustaining linearly-organized storm.”   As Parker explained, “A Derecho often starts as a series of outflow boundaries/gust fronts extending from squall/T-storms, advancing ahead of a pool of cold air aloft. Over time, these outflow boundaries/gusts can merge into a long line, and be self-sustaining.” 

We learned a lot.  In the long run, we were really lucky, much more fortunate than our friends.  For a rousing, well-written tale about how awful this storm was for many folks, please read Neko’s blog.  Some other people we care about suffered the worst loss that we know about.  Their beloved terrier, who had sailed with them for ten years, washed overboard during the gale.  We have talked to many cruisers who have sailed all over the globe for many years, and every one of them says that this was the worst experience they have ever had.