Day One: No Beer in the Bahamas
Got to Marsh Harbour in the late afternoon. No problems with the flight on Continental. Catch a cab and head to the Conch Inn to register with the Moorings for our rooms that night and the charter to start in the morning. The Conch Inn has changed since I was here nineteen years ago. The pool used to be facing the harbour side and the watervolleyball game there every afternoon seemed to be the center of attention of the entire harbour. Now the Moorings office overlooks the harbour and the pool is behind it. It's still nice. The other big difference I notice is that there are just more cars everywhere. I go into the office and there are 3 nicely dressed, efficient Bahamian women behind the counter. I go up and announce my name and tell her I have a reservation. She smiles and begins to search a list of some sort. She says, "Hmmm, how do you spell your name again?" I confidently spelled it for her knowing that it would be right there as soon as she spelled it right. She looked a while longer and then looked up at me. Our gazes locked. Staring me directly in the eye she said, " I don't have anything for you for today or tomorrow." The breath sort of whooshed out of my lungs. As she held my gaze, I just stood there kind of stuporous like. Just as I was about to start fumbling for some kind of receipt of confirmation number she broke my gaze, slapped her thighs and started laughing at the top of her lungs, "Yeah, I got you right here." Welcome to the Bahamas.
After settling in to our rooms we took a swim and then walked over to Mangoes for dinner. After we're seated, our Bahamian waitress comes up and asks if we'd like something to drink to start with. Kerry, the Minister of Hillbilly culture, asks if they have beer. She looks at him with a straight face and says, " Oh no, there's no beer in the Bahamas". Kerry just sits there kind of stuporous like. About that time she slapped her thighs and started laughing at the top of her lungs, "Yeah man, what kind you want?" We laugh, we eat, we drink, toast, we laugh some more. We head back to our rooms at the Conch Inn. I'm amazed that they have cable TV there. Heck, we don't even have that at home. We sleep and dream of green turtles.
Day Two:5,4,3,2, ignition, lift off
Breakfast at Bistro. 9:00 AM chart briefing with the lovely and talented Tessa. Load our stuff on the boat. It's a Beneteau 38 named Delphinus. Isn't that Greek for Dolphin Penis? Boat briefing with O'Brian. Engine fires up, some momentary unpleasantness with one of the dock lines and then we're off. Nineteen years later, it is I, Captain Pirate Deadhead, back at the helm. "Avast ye mateys, look sharp and I'll have no back talk or by God I'll feed ye to the scupper lizards." The crew all looks at me kind of funny and then they try and ignore me for the most part. We head out into the Sea of Abaco. We're here. After all this time. Look at us. We're Here. Big Eyes all around. We're checking out the boat now. We go fast, slow, forwards, backwards, left, right, do a victory donut and it's time to put the sails up and sail this boat. Well, motorsail it anyway. It dawns on me that the perfect sport is competitive motorsailing. You could be scored on a combination of speed, fuel efficiency and style points.
Look for it at the 2012 Olympics.
We motorsail to Hopetown and anchor outside. Two hours to sunset and we dinghy into the harbour and just ride around…and around…and around again. Hey, look at us, look at where we are, we're here. Yeehaa!!! We have dinner at the Harbour View or Harbour's Edge or whatever it is and head back to the boat after one more circumnavigation. At the boat, we sit in the cockpit and the lovely Sharon cooks up some sort of rum concoction with two kinds of rum, guava, mangoe, pineapple, coconut, bug repellant, sunscreen, etc., that will hereafter be called a "Rum Thang". (to the tune of Wild Thang as if you didn't know)
Rum Thang, you make my head ding You make my dingaling ring, Rum Thang Rum Thang, you make my bee sting You make my engine ping, Rum Thang
We laugh, we eat, we drink, toast, we laugh some more, we sleep.
Day Three: Lubber's Lobsters
Breakfast and then we head south. We're coming up on Lubber's Channel now on a rising tide. The boat supposedly draws 5'4" and the depth meter says 5.4 ft. Couldn't really do the math due to residual Rum Thang, but we're definitely doing some bumping. Using the keel method of bottom location. However, we make it to Tahiti Beach without incident and drop the hook. Now most experienced snorkelers would know that there's really nothing to see out where we're anchored, but we're Hillbillies on Parade. We've gotta get in the water right now, so it's on with the snorkels and over the side. Snorkelwhacker's Anonymous. Right away we find…sand…and grass. But after a little scouting around, we find a big, old propane tank that's full of 5 or 6 lobster. We introduce ourselves and take pictures. Nice fellows, but kind of paranoid. We make a picnic lunch and dinghy over to Tahiti Beach. As we walk up the beach we see Tilloo Cut through the trees and picnicking thoughts are definitely postponed and the lunch stuffed in the trees for later retrieval. We walk out into the shallow water and a sting ray comes swimming right up to us. We stay longer than we planned, but finally head back to the boat. Pull the hook and head south again. Navigation has been a breeze thanks to my combination handheld GPS/GameBoy/Tricorder device. The tricorder function indicates alien lifeforms near Little Harbour so we head that way. When we get there we decide to anchor outside Tom Curry point due to draft restrictions. My wife calls it Tim Curry Point, convinced that it's owned by the actor of the same name who starred in Rocky Horror Pictures Show. Us real sailor types know it's actually Tom Petty Point, but I let her think what she wants. Wind's from the ENE and there's not much protection here. We're tired and decide not to dinghy in tonight and instead spend a slightly uncomfortable night rocking and rolling. We laugh, we eat, we drink, toast, we laugh some more, we sleep.
Up early, breakfast and we move to big boat around to a little better spot right outside Little Harbour entrance.We dinghy in and immediately realize that we've made a tactical error. One look at Pete's Pub and we realize this is not a morning place. We make the best of it and head for the Foundry where they're hard at work making all kinds of incredible artwork. My wife, the artist, gets a complete explanation of the entire wax mold process. I don't really understand it, but it seems pretty cool. We look around a little more and then it's back to the boat and head for Sandy Cay. An underwater national park, what a great idea. We should get one of these back home. A little too rough to anchor out on the windward side so we go around behind and anchor in 10 ft of water. We probably should have dingied around and grabbed one of the moorings, but instead we decide to hike over Sandy Cay and it's couple of miles of dead, sharp coral. There's probably a much better way to get there, but we don't find it. After some debate about the best place to go in the water we finally make it. It's positively beautiful. We're like little kids exploring and showing each other things.
Back on the boat, we have a great lunch, a Rum Thang, and then we're off. We're starting to notice the heat now. Not that it's really all that hot, but we're tending towards a bit of dehydration. The buzz word of the day becomes "Hydrate! Hydrate!" I'm also noticing the spots that didn't get enough sun screen the first couple of days. From now on each day will start with hydration followed by an intensive lubing session. By the end of the trip our skin will have developed a ¼" thick film consisting of SPF 20 sun screen, bug stuff, sea lice repellant sun screen, aloe vera lotion, and a mixture of spilled Kalick, Rum Thang, and sand.
Back on Sandy Cay, we realize we've drastically underestimated the amount of ice necessary to continue the Rum Thang Development Project we've started, so we head to Marsh Harbour to pick up all the rest of the ice from the Moorings ice machine. We have a great sail on a beam reach up the Dodge Highway to Boat Harbour and from there around to Marsh Harbour. When we get there, we spend the night at anchor in Marsh Harbour. Sunset is spectacular
Day Five: Team Thong
In the morning, we get up, have a nice breakfast, and just spend some time looking around Marsh Harbour from the cockpit of the boat. Hey, look at this, look where we are, we're here, we're finally here!. After the Cruiser's Net, we pull the hook and head to the fuel dock where we tie up. First order of business is to hit the bathrooms, swimming pool, and showers in that order. After that, we raid the ice machine, back to the boat and it's off to Guana. Some Rum Thang development takes place on the way over and we decide to pick up a mooring in Settlement Harbour. In the harbour, I decide on a mooring and motor up to it. We've never done this before and our foredeck crew decides that the best way to do this would be for one person to grab the line with the boat hook, then almost drop the boathook in the water and hold the line while the other person runs a line from a cleat over, under, around and through the lifelines and pulpit several times and finally ties it off on the other cleat. I can see the smiles and hear the laughter from the boat next to ours. Hey, guess what, we're just Hillbillies on Parade. What do you expect?
After another Rum Thang and more "look where we are" amazement, we decide to dinghy in. We pull up on the starboard side of the dock and the girls hop off. Kerry and I decide to move the dinghy around to the other side of the dock where it's less crowded. He kills the engine too soon and the girls miss the dock line when I throw it to them. Now, we're drifting backwards over the stern anchor Kerry has thrown out, so, he can't start the engine without it wrapping the anchor line around the prop and we're wondering what to do. About that time we realize that the water's only about six inches deep so we get out and just walk it up to the dock with stupid looks on our faces.. I notice there's a couple sitting on the dock with big grins on their faces. You guessed it, it was the same people from the boat next to us that watched our mooring exhibition. I smile at 'em and say "Hey, at least we're having fun". They agree that we all have our trials and we're off to Nipper's.
At Nipper's it seems like there's a party going on. Of course, we find out later that there's always a party going on.We grab a drink and decide to enjoy the pool for awhile. We're in the upper pool relaxing and we notice that everyone seems to be staring, transfixed at the lower pool. I take a look and immediately understand what's happening. We've forgotten that it's July 4th. There are three beautiful girls in matching red, white, and blue thong bikinis performing very complicated and patriotic maneuvers in the lower pool. Team Thong. We strike up a conversation with Steve and Wendy from New York. As we observe the patriotic exhibition, Steve says the snorkeling at the North end of Guana is really good.
After the Team Thong exhibition we decide to go snorkeling with Steve and head to the beach. We take Steve's golf cart all the way down to the north end and the snorkeling on the North end is , in fact, great. Steve takes us back to the dock in his golf cart. We plan to go back in to Nipper's for the big fireworks exhibition that evening, but after dinner my body monitor informs me that all systems are shutting down. I keel over with my head in Sharon's lap and put on a snoring display. Kerry records my snoring on his minidisc recorder. I have a feeling I'll be regretting this.
Day Six: Shark Attack
We wake up, have breakfast and decide to snorkel the North end of Guana one more time before heading to Green Turtle. We end up drift snorkeling from North to South a couple of times. It's great, we see all kinds of fish and several rays of some kind. On the second pass, Sharon is in front of me. She's looking off to the right at something and right in front of her I see a shark coming right at her. He must have been 75 feet long and bigger than a house. I pop to the surface and start calmly screaming "Shark, shark, we're all going to die!" Sharon finally looks up and sees it and heads straight at it with her trusty Fujifilm Underwater Disposable camera. The shark apparently has had enough of the paparazzi and swims off as fast as he can. Below is a picture of the spot where the shark was just seconds earlier.
Kerry and Cindy decide to walk back down the beach to Nipper's. Sharon and I snorkel/swim all the way back to Nipper's. That's a long way for a fat guy to swim and by the time we get to Nipper's I'm bushed. Kerry and Cindy are waiting for us as we drag ourselves up the stairs. Kerry hands me a frozen Nipper and says it's just what I need. He's right. Then I need another one. Then I need a Kalick. Then another frozen Nipper. Too late I realize that I've been sucked into the Nipper's Vortex from which there is no escape. Hoping to eventually make my way through the Vortex and come out the other side, I have another frozen Nipper. Or two. This part becomes a little hazy after this. Later, we found ourselves miraculously back on the boat. It seemed best to evacuate the area at once and head into the dreaded Whale Cay Passage.
In Whale Cay Passage, there's an enormous rage running with seas of one to two feet and howling winds of 5 to 10 knots, but we felt that if we couldn't handle it, no one could. Undaunted by the perilous conditions, we contact the Moorings, "Moorings base Moorings base this is Delphinius or however you pronounce it, and we're heading into the dreaded Whale Cay Passage and if we're never heard from again, please tell our children we love them and we did it for them". We charge in under full power and after a long perilous fight and many Rum Thangs consumed for strength with limes to fight off the scurvy, we emerge at New Plymouth.
After we got the boat anchored we noticed a small 21' or so boat coming right at us at a high rate of speed. They stopped about a hundred feet or so in front of us and soon we heard the telltale swoosh of a water balloon hitting the port side of the boat. WE'RE UNDER ATTACK! BATTLESTATIONS, BATTLESTATIONS! I grab my guitar and Kerry grabs his mandolin and we start playing the Battle of New Orleans to provide inspiration for the girls who we send forward to repel the attackers. The girls have the ultimate weapon. They expose an amount of flesh sufficient to seriously rattle our attackers and after that the attackers are unable to get any of their balloons to rise to the occasion. The girls taunt them as their balloons fall helplessly short of the target and splash harmlessly in the water. Our attackers motor off, limp, defeated and humbled, with their tails between their legs.
That night we sleep soundly knowing that in one day's time we've braved the Nipper's Vortex, the dreaded Whale Cay Passage, and repelled an attack by evil water ballooners. We, the crew of the Delphinus are ready for anything.
Day Seven: Junkanoo
The next morning we had a nice breakfast and then dinghied in to New Plymouth. Everyone loved New Plymouth.How could you not? The girls got hung up immediately looking for post cards. Kerry and I walked on down the street, then I went looking for the restroom and agreed to meet Kerry right outside. When I got back to the street, there was no one in sight. I wandered up and down most of the streets in New Plymouth. Great, the town has two streets and we're lost. How can that be? I eventually found Cindy and we wandered around together until we finally ran across Kerry and Sharon. Once we were all back together, we went down to see if the Blue Bee was open. I had an out of body experience there 19 years ago and I needed to get back there to get some sort of closure in my life. It was still early so the Blue Bee was closed. We decided to take this opportunity to rent a golf cart. As we were wandering around town trying to figure out where to rent a cart, the ferry pulled in. The ferry driver was apparently able to read our minds and yelled out at us "Hey, do you want to rent a golf cart?" He said he'd call on the VHF and get us one. In a few minutes a nice lady from the T&A rentals pulls up with a cart for us.
Kerry and I climb out back and get out the instruments while Sharon and Cindy climb up front and we're off.
Cindy's doing her best to remember to drive on the left while Kerry and I launch in to a rousing rendition of the old fiddle tune "New Rigged Ship". After a couple of tours of Green Turtle playing fiddle tunes we've got about 10 or 15 kids following us. Kids always know a party when they see one. We finally decide to head around to the Green Turtle Club.
When we get to the Green Turtle Club we head straight to the bar for a Rum Thang to try and beat the heat. Pretty soon we realize that it's starting to rain outside. Hey, Barometer Bob didn't say anything about this. By this time our cart rental is about up, so we head back to new Plymouth in the rain. Of course, the clouds decide to really open up at this point. We make it back to New Plymouth and we're soaking wet.
After leaving the golf cart at the designated spot, we decide to have lunch and dry out at the Wrecking Tree. On the way back to the Wrecking Tree we see 5 or 6 guys walking down the street in tuxedos. Now, that's something we didn't expect to see and after the events of the last few days, "surreal" is beginning to be the order of the day. Turns out that someone related to the ferry captain was getting married on Treasure Cay. We wish them a Merry Christmas and a happy marriage, too.
After lunch we notice that the Blue Bee is open and so it's Goombay Smash time. One of my fondest memories of the time I was here before was of Miss Emily. What an incredibly sweet lady and yes, I'll try to remember to be nice. I'm sure we must have left a card or a dollar bill or something on the wall when we were there before, but it's all really a blur at this point and I can't find any evidence that I was ever here except for the blank place in my memory. We'd noticed posters around town saying something about the Junkanoo Committee hosting a cookout with a Junkanoo band from Nassau. Turns out it was right in front of the Blue Bee that very evening and we had front row seats. Before the band started playing the members were wandering around town. Sharon asked one of them when they would be starting and he answered, "Oh, about 7:00 or so". She then asked if he realized it was now 8:00? I think it took him by surprise. Once they started, about 9:00, the band was great. They had lots of drums made from 55 gal drums with some sort of hide stretched over them. Then they had a section of cow bells.
Miss Emily's nephew explained to us that the sound of the cow bell is "ka-lick" and the logo for Kalick beer is a cow bell? Coincidence? I think not. The band also had a horn section of sorts. The drummers would raise hell for 5 minutes or so and then the horn section would kick in with little snippets of other songs. First they played the theme from Bonanza. Then they played the Elvis tune "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You". All the while the drummers were just raising a hellacious noise.
We sat with our new friends, Carol and Tony from Florida. Carol and Tony were old hands here and kept their boat at Man 'O War when they were back in Florida. After a couple of Cuban cigars, just because we could, we decided to head up the road to see if the Gully Roosters were there. Sure enough, they were there and playing away, but the place was totally empty. We danced a few tunes, but decided that it had been a long day and we were old and worn out, so we made it back to the boat.
Day Eight: The Bohemas
Day eight found the Hillbillies kind of subdued. We'd had a great time so far, but we woke up to the realization that this was the next to last full day we'd be here. When we left Ft. Lauderdale there was a sign in the airport that said "don't sad because it's over, be glad that it happened." BS. Nonetheless, we decided to make the best of it.
One thing about spending time with someone on a boat is that you really get to know them. I mean really, really get to know them. For instance, Kerry is my best friend and we've been musically joined at the hip for the last eight years, but I never knew that he was genetically incapable of saying the word "Bahamian" until now. I mean, we play a song called "Palamito Blanco" and he always calls it "pal uh meet uh blank uh" and we have another one called La Arbolita and he pronounces it "lay ar buh leet uh", but I had no idea about "Bahamian". When Kerry says it, it always becomes "Bohemian". For some reason, this just cracked me up. "Hey Kerry, use some of that Bohemian money of yours and buy me another Kalick" "Hey, I wonder if they take wet Bohemian money?" "Hey Kerry, you enjoying your vacation here in the Bohemas?" "Yep, just a bunch of Hillbillies in the Bohemas." Maybe you had to be there, but we couldn't stop laughing.
Well anyway, while having breakfast on the boat at Green Turtle we debated on whether to spend the night at Treasure Cay or Baker's Bay. I had great memories of Baker's Bay when were here before, so I persuaded everyone that that's what we should do. Being old hands at Whale Cay Passage now, we pulled the hook and headed out without a concern. Going through Whale Cay was uneventful except for the combination of a mid-day Rum Thang and the Funky Meters on the CD player leading to an outbreak of Hillbilly Dancing in the cockpit.
After anchoring in Baker's Bay, we just sat and looked around for awhile. What a beautiful place. There were a handful of boats anchored here, one of which appeared to be a schooner full of Boy Scouts. Man, things have changed since I got kicked out for being a Tenderfoot for 2 years and pulling up tent stakes at the big campout. I might try to get back in.
After lunch we dinghied in to check out the remains of the cruise ship landing. It was really kind of eerie. The stage still had a full complement of lighting hanging from the top. Having some idea what this stuff costs, I'm amazed they just abandoned it. We found, just lying on the ground, a perfectly intact rental agreement for some kind of little water trike. You'd think Floyd would've whisked all that kind of stuff away. It's kind of fun to root around through everything, but it seemed bogus to us for Disney to have just abandoned this stuff here. We talked about a plan to bundle it all up and take it to Disneyland and just dump it there to see how they felt about it. "Hey Mickey, we're sure you meant to take this crap with you when you left."
Later we decided to head round to the north side of Guana and do some snorkleing. We landed the dinghy on the north end and walked over to the beach on the Atlantic side. We spent some time here just lying on the beach and basking in the sun. One of the little disagreements that my wife and I have has to do with posing for photographs. I'm of the mind that the function of cameras should be to document events as they take place. Sharon, on the other hand, sees them as excuses for making everyone pose. Kerry and I figured if we were going to pose, we might as well really pose. So we had a pose down.
Afterwards we snorkeled around the north end of the island and back to the dinghy. From there we made it back to the boat for a relaxing evening. Rumor has it that there were several sightings on the beach that day of people celebrating Nude Recreation Week.
Day nine and we woke up to the awful truth that this was our last full day in the Bohemas. After some commiserating we decided to make the best of it. One thing we had not done, but that was on our list was to snorkel at Fowl Cay. We had to have the boat back at the Moorings by 10:00 AM the following day, so we decided the general plan for the day would be to head to Fowl Cay for snorkeling and then anchor behind Matt Lowe's Cay for the night so that we'd be relatively close to Marsh Harbour in the morning.
As I sat down to study the charts I realized that the plan we'd come up with had a huge navigational problem. Mainly, that we had to pass by Nipper's to get to Fowl Cay from Baker's Bay. I studied my by now water logged copies of Dodge and Wyatt for any suggestions on dealing with this situation and found none. By the way, being a person somewhat prone to excess and of the opinion that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, I now own a copy of every cruising guide to the Abacos that is currently available. In retrospect, Dodge and Wyatt are the only ones to have and it was beneficial to own both. The rest are hopelessly out of date unless you're interested in buying one of them from me, in which case they're the best ones to have.
Anyway, back to our story. We decided that we could resist the Nipper's temptation and we set our motorsail for Fowl Cay. We managed to pass by Nipper's with surprisingly little trouble. We later speculated that the folks at Nipper's were probably still in bed. We'd heard on the Cruiser's Net that the big "Dress like a Pirate" party had been the night before. It seemed like everyone in the vicinity of Guana was moving very slowly this morning, which worked to our advantage.
Upon arriving at Fowl Cay, there was one other boat anchored on the south side. It was one of the large Moorings catamarans. We dropped our hook, grabbed our snorkel gear and dinghied around to the north side. There are moorings along this side of Fowl Cay. The moorings are designed for smaller boats and the first one we came to had a dinghy tied to it with one guy sitting in it. We pulled along side and asked if we could share his mooring. He cheerfully agreed and suggested that I tie our painter to his boat instead of the mooring. As I tied what would I'm afraid would probably turn out to be a hatchet knot later (i.e., you need a hatchet to untie it) we found from our new friend that he worked for the Moorings and was, in fact, the captain on a crewed charter. The cat we'd anchored alongside earlier had been his and the guests he was escorting we snorkeling while he waited.
He had just moved to the Abacos after running the Moorings base in St. Lucia for several years. We talked a bit about the Moorings and he said they were a great company to work for. It's always been my theory that the attitude toward customers comes from the top. If this is true, then the folks that run the Moorings must be good people, because their employees all seem to have great attitudes. Of course, working in the Abacos might have something to do with it. Our new friend pointed out some of the highlights around the area that we should dive and we wished each other luck and dove in.
Fowl Cay was spectacular. Beyond words, so I won't try and offer any. What I will say is that after we finished snorkeling and got back to the boat, the lure of Nipper's just proved too strong. Soon we found ourselves heading to Settlement Harbour, grabbing one of Froggie's moorings, and catching a golf cart ride up the hill for one last Frozen Nipper. Cindy suggested that we stop at the sign on the way up to Nipper's and take a picture. Then on the way down, we would stop at the sign again and take another picture at the same place and compare the two for differences. Needless to say, after a couple of frozen Nipper's, we forgot to take the one on the way down.
We did however, get this great picture of the lovely Cindy overlooking beautiful Guana Beach.
We finally made it back down the hill and out to the boat where we set motorsail for Matt Lowe's to spend our last night in the Bohemas. Tomorrow morning it would back to Marsh harbour and from there to the airport for a quick flight to Fort Lauderdale. Simple and easy. Or so we thought.
After spending the night at anchor behind Matt Lowe's Cay, I woke up early before anyone else. I stumbled to the cockpit and just sat, hoping to absorb by osmosis, the scene around me. Kind of like when I was a kid lying on the sidewalk looking at the clouds and I decided that no matter how old I got I was going to always remember that one moment in time.
In a few short hours we'd be back in civilization. Is that possible? Could it really be right to be leaving this place? It seemed that packing up and heading back to civilization would be like a crime against nature or something. It seemed like if we went against the natural order by leaving, we might somehow be punished. A little voice started whispering in my ear, "You're not supposed to leave…" As the sky began to brighten, I noticed that a huge line of clouds covered the western horizon.
The other Hillbillies began stirring and were greeted by streaks of lightning flashing across the sky. Cindy asked, "Is it ok to be on a sailboat during lightning?" I ran a quick scan of my memory banks for the words "lightning" and "sailboat" and came up with a few useless fragments of information about keels bonded to the shrouds or something like that. "Oh, no problem" I answered, "the keel is scientifically bonded to the mast so that during a lightning strike a sailboat is statistically the safest place in the world to be. Just don't touch any metal just in case. You know how statistics are". Since I had somehow miraculously managed to not run us aground so far, she seemed to trust what I said on this. Boy, I sure hoped something like that was actually true because it was looking nasty.
We had a quick breakfast, pulled the hook and headed toward Marsh Harbour. About half way there the wind hit. All those nasty scenarios started running through my mind. You know, the ones where the diesel starts to sputter and finally die and so we try and put a sail up to claw our way off the rocks and it blows out immediately and then we try and drop the anchor only to have the windlass malfunction just in time for the monster down below in the hockey mask to come vaulting out of the cabin with a machete. Whew, luckily nothing like that happened. It was, however, blowing a good 40-45 knots, heeling the boat over as we rounded Outer Point. We were all feeling like tough sailors by this point.
We called ahead to the Moorings and they told us to tie up at the fuel dock. We managed to do that with a minimum of stress and gnashing of the teeth. The guy at the dock refueled the boat and said he'd take it around to the slip while we packed our stuff down below. Now, all week long we'd been struggling with the idea of going backwards. Every time we'd try, the boat would make an immediate 90 degree turn to port. We tried going slow then fast, fast then slow, medium then slow then fast, but no matter what, it just backed to port. Worse than any boat I've ever been on. Imagine my amazement as I was down below packing my bags and I realized that we were away from the dock and doing about 17 knots in reverse all the way around to the slip. Geez, I guess I just wasn't holding my mouth right.
By the time we got our geared packed and onto the dock it had really started to rain. Now, I've been in some rain before. During a younger, stupider period of my life I thought it would be great fun to sit out a hurricane on a boat in a marina. My point being that I've seen some rain. But it's been awhile since I've seen rain blow horizontally which is exactly what it was doing. We stashed our stuff in the Moorings briefing room and went upstairs to see what the airport situation was.
We joined about 5 other folks who all looked like drowned rats, all trying to use the phone or otherwise deal with logistics. According to the woman at the desk no planes were flying. A little voice started whispering in my ear, "You're not supposed to leave…"
The Moorings office at the Conch Inn is up a flight of stairs and overlooks the marina.
We were sitting on the floor talking to the other soaking wet folks when one of the guy's sons said he was going to go downstairs to his hotel room and get something. As he started down the stairs, Kerry had what I guess was by now an automatic reaction to the site of someone going down stairs and yelled out to the kid "Hey, while yer down there…" We all laughed and laughed and laughed.
Pretty soon we decided to go over to the Bistro and wait there for awhile. Not to dis the Bistro, but it seems like when you go there you really do need to be prepared to wait. They just don't move real fast. Fine, we apparently had time. After a second breakfast we called the airlines and were told to be at the airport in two hours.
When we finally got to the airport there were zillions of people there. Flights had been canceled, rescheduled, re-canceled, etc. and everyone seemed pretty frustrated. There was a guy standing in line who had one of the cooler T-shirts I'd seen. It was from a place called Amphibious Outfitters. It had a picture of a huge Moray Eel with teeny little scuba divers swimming into its mouth. Maybe that kind of thing is a common sight in Florida, but here in the great Northwest, you don't see it that often. After staring at the shirt for a few minutes, I couldn't stand it and I walked up to the guy and offered to trade shirts with him. He looked at me kind of funny and said to wait a minute until he got through the line. Now, like I said, people were getting kind of crabby at this point and I was a little worried when he came over in a few minutes, looked me in the eye and said, "Let's go outside". I noticed that he was a really big guy and I realized that my shirt was still wet and kind of stinky.
Great, I have to leave the Bohemas and I'm going to get my ass kicked.
When we got outside he said, "Hey, it's just a shirt and if you want it, it's yours" and smiled. We swapped shirts while Sharon tried to take our picture with a camera that had no film. We talked for awhile and he told us that his Uncle's boat was the one that was on the old Bahamian dollar before they changed it. He and his brother run a taxidermy shop in Fort Lauderdale and he explained that they no longer had to kill the fish. Instead they just take a picture and use a computer to reconstruct a full size model for you to hang over your mantle. Amazing. Nicest guy in the world and now he was the owner of an official Sun Ra T-shirt. I don't think he really understood the value of what he had.
By this time, we were ready to board and we said our good-byes and made it out to the plane. As we sat on the runway, the co-pilot closed the door and climbed into her seat next to the pilot. I was sitting in the front seat and had a clear view of everything they were doing. They seemed concerned about something. I noticed when the co-pilot closed the door that I could still see light through the top. Pretty soon the co-pilot came back and opened and closed the door. Twice. Then the pilot came back and tried. Twice. Under his breath he muttered, "Houston, we have a problem". Before we know it we're all getting off the plane and trudging back inside. A little voice started whispering in my ear, "You're not supposed to leave…" Turns out they couldn't fly this plane and there was no mechanic there that could fix it. We decided to go back into town and wait there.
Back at the Bistro bar we took our regular seats, ordered some Rum Thangs and started trying to figure out what we should do. All we could really come up with was more Rum Thangs. After a few more I decided to go back to the Conch Inn office and see if they had any rooms. I was told that unfortunately they were booked, but that I shouldn't worry because a new plane would be here for us very shortly and we would definitely get out tonight. I asked the desk clerk how she knew all this. She grinned and said that her husband worked for the airline and he had just called and told her he'd be working late. There you have it. Any questions? We bundled up and headed back to the airport.
When we got there, the pilot told us that sure enough in a short hour and a half we'd be on a plane to Fort Lauderdale. Somehow, Cindy miraculously came up with a bottle of wine, four glasses, cheese and crackers. How does she do that? At any rate, we decided the only thing to do was celebrate. And celebrate we did.
Two hours later we were uneventfully winging our way back to Florida, wondering if the whole thing had been a dream. Was I really on a boat this very morning? Was the Junakanoo party real?
Doe's Pete really exist or is Pete's Pub, in fact, owned by the Coca Cola Corporation? What exactly is in a frozen Nipper? Why didn't we go to Treasure Cay? Why didn't we climb the lighthouse at Hopetown? How about snorkeling at Johnny's Cay? Why didn't we visit Man O'War? Wonder if we could get a gig at Nipper's? Questions, unanswered questions. These questions and others weighed on us as the plane flew into US.