Beach Time and History Lessons

April 30, 2017

Right around the time we decided it might be time to start heading north we heard from our friend Aric who was coming to the Bahamas to pick up his boat. We first met him back in Savannah when I read about a project he was doing called the Maritime Lemonade Stand. Basically, he bought a boat and was in the process of fixing it up to single-hand around the world. Well, guess what? His boat project turned from a quick fix to a major overhaul, keeping him stuck in Oriental, North Carolina, for nearly a year. Boat projects that take longer than expected? Unheard of! By the time he got to Savannah, he was so ready to get out there and go. And then came Hurricane Matthew. Remember that? We sure do. While we were waiting it out up in Georgia, Aric was down here in the Bahamas. He tied his boat up in a hurricane hole, crossed his fingers, and got the heck out of the Bahamas for a while. (Let’s just say the last leg of his journey to the hurricane hole was on the harrowing side, so Aric was ready for a little hiatus from the boat. I can totally relate after our Atlantic crossing!) Now seven months later, he was back to pick up his boat and take it to Marsh Harbour in the Abacos to haul out and have some work done.

When Aric came limping into Staniel Cay on his boat Odyssey Rich sprang into action to help him with his malfunctioning tiller. Rich just happened to have a piece of brass that was just about the right size for the job (he wound up cutting it down a bit to fit) and hopped on Aric’s boat to fix the problem. It wasn’t perfect, but it looked like it would get him where he was going, roughly 150 miles north. Poor Aric was beat after a long day of sailing and worrying about his tiller problem but gamely joined us for drinks at the yacht club, which he insisted on paying for to thank Rich for his help. The next morning, off he went, but within an hour he was back. It was way too rough out there, so he decided to take the day off and head up the Exuma Banks side the following day, which was what we were doing too.

Shroud Cay, Again
Rich had been raving about Shroud Cay, our favorite spot in the Exumas, and telling Aric he should make a point to stop there, so we weren’t surprised when we pulled up next to him there the following afternoon. We invited him to go for a little armada ride (with the dinghy towing the kayak and SUP) through the mangroves. It turned out to be a generally awesome day playing in that gorgeous water. While we cooked up something for dinner Aric broke out a tasty (and potent!) cocktail made up of Campari and other odds and ends he had on the boat. He also gifted us with his 2016 Abacos guide and some other goodies (including Jack Black’s You Can’t Win. William S. Burrough’s fave book, a page-turner of a memoir by a former criminal who you can’t help but root for). All in all, it was a really great day and a super-fun evening.

Us on Mata Hari at Shroud Cay. Thanks to Aric for the pic.

I don’t think we’ll ever get over how pretty the water is at Shroud Cay.

Tropicbirds always seem to be flying overhead here, the color of the water reflecting on their bodies making them look blue.

Aric shows off his hero pose. (I’m still working on mine…)

It was a good day.

Aric headed off on his way north the next day while we stayed at Shroud to do some boat projects. He kept us posted about his adventures, which were many, but he finally managed to get his boat to Marsh Harbour (sailing it in without a motor in the end, but he made it!). Boat life, gotta love it!

One Last Visit to Nassau
A few days later we headed back to Nassau. It was a bit of a rainy, windy ride and crossing the Yellow Banks (a coral head minefield) was a little nerve-wracking in these conditions. It was so rough out there that when I took the tiller while Rich took a bathroom break, I could barely hold us on course for even a few seconds. But we managed and were anchored at Montagu Bay where our friend Wayne lives by early that afternoon.

We had to get out our foulies for the first time in a long time on the way to Nassau.

Wayne was kind enough to take us around to run some errands (groceries, picking up a part for the outboard, trying to pick up parts for the iSUP that the marina said we shouldn’t expect until July…yes, the mail is that bad here). He was also kind enough to take us to Fort Fincastle where we visited the Queen’s Steps (named in honor of Queen Victoria’s freeing of the slaves) and caught up on some Bahamian history (suffice to say that the governor of Nassau who had it built was not a nice guy).

You can see the Queen’s Steps leading up to the fort behind us.

The water tower behind the fort supposedly has a light on top that functions as a beacon, though no one we talked to has ever seen it lit.

The original cannons (these are replicas) were never fired, a good thing because they never would have reached the harbor.

View from the top of Fort Fincastle

On the way back, we stopped at Goldie’s, Wayne’s go-to for conch salad. Guess they make a lot of them here!

When we got back to Wayne’s the Yamacraw crew was pulling in. They’d caught a couple of conch (starting to notice a theme? It’s all about conch in the Bahamas…) for our friend Lisa and kept them fresh for her by keeping them tied together in the water off the boat. We’ve seen the conch fishermen do this too. They’ll have a pile of them just sitting there in the water at the market, all tied together with a line so they don’t crawl away. Diana’s a real expert at extricating the conch from its shell so Lisa asked her to do the honors. The hammer she uses is the key for cutting a perfect-size hole in the conch shell. Once that’s done she uses a screwdriver to cut the muscle that holds the conch inside the shell and, voilà, out plops the conch.

Mata Hari at anchor off Wayne’s place in Nassau

It’s pretty amazing to watch Mikey maneuver the Yamacraw into the dock.

Diana shows us how it’s done.

Legend has it that conch pistol, part of the digestive tract, is good for back pain and might even be an aphrodisiac. At least it’s flavorless.

The night before we left, Wayne’s friend Henry took us for a sunset cruise around the harbor on his zippy Boston Whaler. Henry’s a native and knows a lot about the local history so it was fun to hear about the waterfront whorehouse (long since closed) and the building that used to be filled with weapons but now serves as a gourmet kitchen to the home next door. Wow, what a pretty place Nassau can be when you get out on the water and away from all the traffic. Someone told us there are three cars for every person on Nassau and I believe it! The only question is why??

The little white building used to be filled with munitions.

Wayne, a real cut-up, had us in stitches the whole time.

Wayne’s dog Scrappy loves a boat ride. Here he is checking out the Hermitage (where Nassau’s bishop lives).

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  • Reply Lydia Bidhop April 30, 2017 at 5:37 pm

    Nassau seems way better from a sailboat than a cruise boat. Lucky you guys

    • Reply Monica April 30, 2017 at 10:10 pm

      I’ve never been on a cruise ship, but I have a feeling you’re right!

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