|The Adventures of
"Visiting the highest point in the Bahamas"©
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(Occasionally, editorial comments from Don of S/V Destiny Calls, host of this web site and southern waters frequenter, will appear in green italic)
When I wrote last we were still in Conception Island. Since then we have put a few miles under the keel. We had planned on anchoring in Little San Salvador, another beautiful Island, which unfortunately is owned by Holland America Cruising Lines. Two reasons we did not stop, one the cruise ship was at anchor which meant we would have been restricted to a 3 foot wide swath of beach to walk on, and the weather was going to come from the west and this is not a good place to be when the weather comes from the west.
So onto Cat Island we sailed. Cat Island is considered by some to be Christopher Columbus first landing in the New World, its original name was San Salvador. Recently the Islands claim to fame, came as a run in between cultural lines ....so to speak. The Holland America Line who bring vacationers to Little San Salvador, has begun promoting all gay cruises. One such boatload debarked onto the beaches a few weeks ago, much to the chagrin of the Cat Islanders. The newspaper described it as hordes of homosexuals and a few lesbians it seems these people were cavorting in public. The locals who work for Holland America were disgusted at the whole scene, and especially that they were not told that this was a gay cruise. They refused to work at the hotel in protest.
Janette and I anchored of New Bight, where we intended to visit the Hermitage. If you remember back in Clarencetown, I had talked about a Father Jerome. At the time of his retirement in 1939, he had asked the powers that be if he could retire on Cat Island as a hermit. Permission was granted and on is what now called Mt Alverna (the highest point in all of the Bahamas aprox. 300 feet high) he began construction of an all rock and cement small replica of a Franciscan monastery.
To see it and consider that the person who did this all by himself is quite amazing. He was a frail stooped man who had to carry all his materials by hand up a steep incline. He early training as an architect ensured that this building was hurricane proof. With a view of both the Atlantic Ocean and Exuma Sound, Father Jerome lived as a hermit till his death in 1956.
There has been little interest until now to keep this tourist sight accessible. So now they want to have cars drive up to it and a road has been cleared in the brush from the main road up to the Hermitage. It is a real devastation of the natural landscape. It also takes away from the original feeling of the place, a place away from the others. Anyone who comes by foot admires the rocks, the birds, the trees, the earth and the smell of the short trek up to the highest point. We took the Via Dolorosa which is the old access. It has the Way of the Cross on its path. Each one was made differently with stone and cement. This was a tribute to God and to his belief.
Father Jerome is buried underneath the building.This is the most visited site in the Bahamas by tourists.
From New Bight we took a little jaunt up to Fernandez Bay, nothing much here except a resort. The weather being cold and windy we did not venture ashore but rather stayed in the cozy comfort of our sailing cell.
On our second day here there was a weather trough (look it up) that decided to hang around and we were on the edge. The storm swirled all around us for most of the day giving us a lively lightning show, not something a sailor particularly likes as he has a big stick pointing up towards the sky. By early afternoon it settled on us giving us much needed rain, but also winds from the west. The boat next to us had a chat with us on the radio and it was decided to get out asap.
Having our dinghy down made us leave a little later and as the winds hit 35 knots (66 km /hr or 42 miles; buddy boat had an anemometer) I was lifting the anchor....lots of fun. With only part of the genoa out we sailed to a more protected anchorage, sometimes even hitting 7 knots.
Although not the most ideal sailing conditions it was quite exhilarating and got rid of the cobwebs. The next morning we left the anchorage in the dark at 0530 and headed toward Eluthera Island. The first part of the day was under sail alone, and under a bright sunny sky we averaged about 5.5 knots. As our course changed and the wind was coming closer to the stern we had to turn on the engine to make speed. I find nothing worse than being in the middle of open water with barely any breeze, the sails flopping caused by the swells and the sun burning a hole through your body. Having arrived safely at Cape Eluthera Marina we both enjoyed a long cool drink.
This Marina was well equipped in its heyday which was 25 years ago. It is now in a pitiful state. We were told that some improvements are under consideration. It is apparently owned by the Amway Corporation. The saving grace was that the dockage fee was $ 15.00 per day, quite cheap. The dock mistress was also a pleasant person.
Janette and I rented a car for the day at $ 60 usd and did a short tour of the Island and to do some needed grocery and propane shopping. The villages of Rock Sound and Tarpum Bay reminded us of coastal villages in Maine and Nova Scotia. The architecture and town layout being very similar. Rock Sound boasts of an American style strip mall. We thought that we had come into a shopping nirvana. A hardware store, liquor store and groceries with a large parking lot. All was clean and tidy and picture perfect.
Janette and I were happy to find a well stocked and clean grocery store. On our way back to the Marina we stopped off at Friendly Bobs. This is the local bar at our end of the Island. It is a bar that has no tables or chairs and one serves themselves form a sliding door refrigerator. Ice is in the chest freezer. With a few locals sitting on beer cases stacked against the wall Janette and I stumbled onto a heated discussion between two men on the philosophical theology of being without sin...in one mans word being pure, to him which meant not having sexual intercourse.
After exchanging vociferously his ideas with his fellow Bahamian, he turned to me and asked me what I thought. After putting the beer bottle down I pointed out to him that if people did not have sex, he would not be here to argue his side. With this he turned around and continued his tirade. This is also the place where the local rooster and two black hens roost up in a tree for the night. it is quite a sight to see the rooster climb the branches of the tree. And I did not have my camera!
After some discussion and looking over charts, it was decided that we would come back to the Exumas. With the lack of all around anchorages and not wanting to fight the Gulf Stream back to Florida, we made way for Warderick Wells. We are now in Black Point on Great Guana Cay. We are using these last few weeks to sit somewhere and do nothing and slowly make our way back to the USA, where we will truck the boat back to Montreal.
Black Point is a small settlement of 300 souls. It has a post office (pink) and three buildings for its All ages school (yellow with green trim), two food stores, a pink telephone building BATELCO where email is sent, one yellow bar/restaurant named Scorpio club, two restaurants of which one is Lorraines. She has a reputation for good food for a good price. And of course she sells bread ($2.50 us a loaf). We ordered one white loaf and bought a raisin one too. I missed out on the lobster because the season ended on April 1st. We had dinner there the first night.
We met other cruisers there. And low and behold there were more Canadians. This is the first community where I saw a new library building with a computer center. It is not open yet but there are books and computers and a brand new sign. There is also a book drive to accumulate 1,000 books for the school so that 100 books can be allocated to each classroom. I will try to see what I can do. But the big problem is transportation.
Here in the harbour we are 10-15 boats at one time. The gulls fly overhead and laugh at us all the time. The water is turquoise blue and there is no surge (roll). On Sunday the mail boat came during the church service (3 hours). It delivered a 1/4 ton truck, and some food and picked up empty bottles for recycling.
One man picked up a large carton of frozen chickens (10 ), and the box broke open while he was carrying it on the dock. Two frozen chickens fell in the water and went swimming. Jim asked if the man wanted him to get them. So he did. Jim went to the rescue of the dancing frozen chickens before the barracudas got them. It went fairly well until one went near the shallow rocks. Jim saved this mans dinner (2 really).
Water is R.O. and is available from a tap on the street. Its quite ok and cruisers take what they need. It is FREE!
We are now heading for home. And it feels strange because now there is a deadline where there was none before. We must be in Florida for May 7-8th. There is still time but now it is limited. In one month we will be demasting and preparing the boat for the trip home on a truck. It is still a month but it will be soon. The weather is what concerns us. We need winds from the right direction so that we can sail.
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