February 10, 2009
We went to the Five F Festival in Little Farmer Island and anchored at the west side with about 30 boats. The festival was planned to be a weekend of of fun, but so far the cold and windy weather appears to have severely restricted the activities. The dinghy race was interesting – about 18 ft dinghies with a tall mast, single sail and two short boards protruding from the side on which sit daring “rail meat” to keep the boat upright and to tease the sharks . We have now moved back up north to Black Point and hope that in the next week the wind will allow us to get to Georgetown. The weather has become a major pain. We have been able to travel only about every ten days. This weather is stated to be unusual for the Bahamas, but it appears to some, sailors and Bahamians, that it has become the norm for the last few years and is likely a longer term change. The high level winds that drive the parade of low cells across the US has changed their route. More often now the cells do not make the left turn north as quick as before. So they continue their march into the Bahamas and bring along their cold air and winds. Consequently cautious sailors have fewer options to travel. We have found ourselves “stuck” for weeks. Uncautious sailors will dine on winds and steep waves that are served up by the ocean – a powerful and sometimes contemptuous chef. . An occasional wreck on the shore is a poignant reminder that the sea has no compassion. The Bahamian islands are both stunningly beautiful and a bit depressing. There are lots of vistas for stunning photos… The boat appears to be floating in air when viewed from underneath. But the dominant fact is that there is little to maintain an economy, so the communities are: sparse, scratching for tourist dollars, trying hard, but short on hope. There are many "stalled"developments with partially constructed walls and rusting machinery, or elegant developments, without noticeable customers. The book “Wind from the Carolinas” (Robert Wilder) is a good read and illustrates the difficulties folks have had making money here. But, it is certainly possible to have a good life here – depending on our definition of good. Hiking is limited because of the low, but dense bush and it is often difficult to land the dinghy. The land has all its original timber removed and low level secondary growth fights for survival in the thin layer of soil. The rock here is limestone that is heavily pockmarked from centuries of rain. It looks like a sponge, but the edges are razor sharp. Having sandals on your feet is a great way to reveal the relative hardness of sharp limestone and your flesh. Believe me you should bet on the limestone. We learned quickly that one’s foot must be totally covered. Fortunately, bugs have not been a concern yet, but there is the possibility for malaria and we have the pills. The Bahamas are not a “guest friendly”place so far for the folks we have talked to. Some hosts have traveled in rough conditions to arrive at airports to pick up guests who then sit on their boat in safe, not scenic anchorages. Guests are not happy given the cost to get here to learn that this cruising lifestyle has got more to do with Maytag than matinis – lots of sleepless nights rolling around in a washing machine worrying about your anchor, or, more importantly, that of the boat to windward. I have yet to see a martini. Cruisers are a little weird. We meet other cruisers frequently and conversation is always fun. But an odd lot we are. We are living a lifestyle – it is NOT a holiday. Nobody knows anything that has happened anywhere in the last four months, or cares for that matter. Life is too focused on keeping comfortable, and alive, today. Fellow cruisers get really enthusiastic about how to manage electricity, and prepare food. The top of the social ladder are those know the only facts of life that matter – when does the mail boat (with the veggies) really going to make its weekly arrival, and how does the control unit on my fridge compressor work. The clear water is stunning however. We look forward to enjoying it more, but must get nearer to the reefs on the ocean side – the home of sharks and baracuda – when the wind dies down and the clouds go away.