When last we left you, we had arrived in Great Harbour Cay after sailing/motoring all night. We covered Sid and his night swimming incident. We covered my humiliation on the dinghy and explained the bruises and scars that Jan has over most her body from her interaction with the mangrove trees. But we didn’t talk about the place itself. So a quick recap.
Great Harbour Cay is an island at the North end of the Berry Islands. If you have been on a cruise ship and stopped in the Bahamas, you may have stopped on one of the little cays just to the north of the Marina we were at–we saw a couple arrive/depart. It is a great stopping off point if you are going/coming from the Abacos and even Eleuthera Islands. For the Exuma islands? It is just a bit out of the way. Most people (like everyone except us, I think) head down to Chub Cay and head out to cross to Nassau since it is at least 40 miles less distance. We, on the other hand, decided to find a good place to wait out some bad weather. And at the end of the day, we aren’t in a hurry, have no schedule and are still in the Bahamas…beaches abound no matter where we are at.
So Great Harbour Cay. And no, I didn’t misspell harbor. It is Harbour with an ‘our’ not an ‘or.’ And the cars drive on the left side of the road. Go figure. The harbor is in the middle of the island and very well protected. It is surrounded by some condominiums and about a 10 minute bike ride from the town on the island. The marina has some activities for the boaters in the marina; Thursday the dude who pumps fuel makes pizzas to order (and they do not taste like diesel); Tuesday is potluck night; bread orders are taken M/W/F and fresh bread is delivered to your boat. And bikes are provided, free of charge, for use getting around the island.
Marinas in the Bahamas are a bit different in the US. In that you pay for everything. Want water? No problem. 75 cents/gallon. Electricity? Pay by the kilowatt hour. Don’t for get the VAT. And the 5% charge if you use credit card! There are no pump outs, so when we leave here and get to deeper water, we will have to pump out our holding tank into the ocean. Which is something we haven’t tried yet and something that sounds appalling.
People are friendly, but not overly so. This is our second country on the trip. Canada is, to date, the place with the friendliest people, possibly on Earth. Which you can understand…the land is a frozen wasteland for 8-10 months a year, so for the two weeks of summer when you get actual tourists. you want to be nice to them so that they return!
The fine people of Bahama appear to have a slightly different attitude. Everyone is friendly. But if they are looking at a new Facebook post or something on their phone when you arrive to talk to them, they tend to finish what they are reading or doing. And then see what you want. Because this is the Bahamas. Crystal blue water. White sandy beaches. Moderate temperature. There are few easily accessible places like this on Earth and so they know we are coming back. And we know we are coming back no matter what the customer service is like.
And since we spend a lot of time walking around and biking around we notice that once again we are in the land of wavers; people who wave to you from their car. But in the Bahamas they one up the acknowledgment game; they honk their horn. A short toot or two to say ‘hey’ as they head down the road (on the wrong side). Took us a day to figure out that they weren’t mad at us or telling us to get out of the road.
The Atlantic side of the island has a bunch of private homes that over look miles of white, sandy beaches. We ran into some of the owners who came over to visit and ended up staying and building. There is a runway on the island that supports flights from Nassau and the United States. And there are a bunch of old structures that used to be something but have now been abandoned. For example, there is a golf course complete with club house that was built and long abandoned; everything is overgrown and we used the fairways for walking paths to/from beaches. There are restaurants now abandoned. But the town has restaurants, stores and a school, the marina has a lot of boats. It is an interesting dichotomy.
We spent six days on the island. Highlights (not already covered elsewhere):
1. Beaches/Shelling. Carla (S/V Mahi) infected Jan with an insidious disease called ‘shelling.’ The symptoms include an inability to pass by a beach without stopping; shufflling/walking in a zombie like trance staring down at the ground; screams and other involuntary utterances after picking up bits of ocean waste off the sand. And fortunately for Jan (and perhaps unfortunately for the rest of us), there are a large number of miles of beaches on the island. We went to just about every beach, including some of Carla’s secret beaches reachable only by car. Some twice. Looking for elusive shells. Of which there are approximately a billion. And I’m not exaggerating. There are shells everywhere, but there are apparently SPECIAL shells or beans or pods that are like a siren’s call drawing shellers to the beach. Our trip is now focused on shells. Getting more shells.
2. Coconuts: We talked about the consequences of eating too much coconuts, but we didn’t talk about learning to open the exotic nuts which are actually fruits. Palm trees are all over this island and these are packed with bit green and brown pods. Which look nothing like coconuts that we get in the store. Fortunately AJ was there to tell us that the coconut is on the INSIDE (with very little eye rolling) and we tried to find the zipper to get the coconut out. Nothing. We went over to Mahi and asked Carla if she would give us a class on how to get the things open and she obliged. And the process is right up my alley–brute force! We got ourselves a BAB (big a$$ed brick), a coconut and used gravity to introduce the BAB to the coconut. Repeatedly. Until crack appears and we could rip them apart and get the coconut. And as we went across the island we picked up more and more, cracking open and eating until one of us got a bit sick. No more of that!
3. Manatees: Exactly one person on our boat has claimed to see Manatees over the past eight months. She (I may be giving away the identity here) would point at random ripples in the water and tell us that there was ‘just a manatee’ or that ‘one just went underwater’ or ‘you just missed it!’ But two of us missed seeing manatees. We were in our slip for 20 minutes when two manatees swam under our boat. And proceeded at a leisurely pace through the rest of the slips before handing out at the end of the docks. Mugging for the cameras. Large. Slow. Ugly. But somehow they made all of us smile! Loving the Manatees.
4. Shopping. We went to the local store and we certainly aren’t in the good old USofA. The store is very small, but we have seen other small places to get provisions when we are in Canada. The prices for the food is NOT cheap. Like really not cheap. So if we thought we were going to save money by all the anchoring we are going to be doing as we head south, it will be off set by $5 cans of diced tomatoes.