July 10th 10:30 PM Pics are up on Flickr.
One of the best things about traveling is being given the opportunity to know how people really live in the places you visit. It can be a rare opportunity, and should always be accepted when offered, IMHO. We had one of those rare chances today on the occasion of Bahamian Independence Day.
Brendal took the day off. Sort of. On the dive boat yesterday, we got to talking about the last time Andie and I were here, and how we’d sailed up into the harbor, beating against the wind. He’d mentioned that he’d likely be sailing to No Name Cay, where there would be an Independence Day picnic. He asked what we were doing. We had no plans, so he said the magic words. “Come go with me”. We were thrilled.
This appealed on so many levels. One was a chance to sail again, and in the Bahamas. This is one of the worlds premier sailing grounds, and anyone who’s ever stood at the helm of a sailboat has wanted to sail here. By the time it was all over, a British couple from that day’s dive, as well as an old friend of Brendals’ along with her 5-year-old son, were all on “Sea Gypsy”, a 28 foot Hunter sailboat beam reaching across the Sea of Abaco. And yes, I had the good fortune to stand at the helm.
Our destination was No Name Cay, a small island just off Green Turtle Cay. There, about 3 dozen families, cruisers, and tourists (that would be us) gathered to celebrate Bahamian Independence.
I’ve so rarely been given the chance to see how people really live when I travel. I got a glimpse of it in Australia, but I was there for a month. Usually, even coming to GTC, we’ve stayed at a resort, gone to the dive boat, driven the golf cart resort transportation through town, even sampled the local restaurants, but this was really how people live.
We pulled up and anchored the boat about 10 yards off the beach in 4 feet of water on a rising tide. There were already several families playing it the clear, warm water, and others setting up the communal cooking station. We took a bottle of rum for the good of the order, and Brendal had a bag of grouper fillets he took up for cooking. Others were making rice and peas, there was a pan of meatballs, and an open fire where the fish was being deep fried in a large open pan. I kind of regret that there was really no way to get the camera across the water over to the shore to get pictures of the festivities, but I wasn’t really anxious to risk dunking the mighty Nikon in the Sea of Abaco. Salt water is good for a lot of things. Electronics is not one of them. But I was able to shoot enough from the boat to give at least a flavor of the party.
While the food was being prepared, we swam, drank, and soaked up way too many ultra violet rays. As always, Brendal was generous with the Goombay Smash, and I’d brought about half a dozen beers to add to the cause. Tommy, the little boy who sailed over with us, was as good natured a 5-year-old as I’ve been around in a long time. We splashed around in the water, Nikki and James, the British couple, kind of adopted on of the local kids, Brendal worked the crowd and chatted with pretty much everyone. Then, lunch was ready. About 3:00 pm, but who was counting. Simple, well cooked, plentiful. No speeches or parades, though I understand there had been one in New Plymouth the night before. Just people enjoying themselves on a day off in the Bahamas.
Later, a group of men, of which Brendal was a part, of course, started playing dominoes. Several were local policemen, still getting the day off. It’s a simple game with a complex strategy, and as one of the players rotated out, I was invited to play. I knew the basics. Everyone’s pretty much played dominoes online, but this was different. I’d already had several beers and a couple of Goombay Smashes in the pouring down sunshine, and was feeling no pain by the time I took a place at the table.
Players often just smash the tiles, which they called cards, down on to the table. Make a big noise, and set your tile. I was completely clueless, and lost my first game out of hand. But when I rotated back in, I managed to win a couple, or at least keep my seat. It was for me a fascinating glimpse into another culture. There were no Gameboys at this party. No kids with iPods, I didn’t see anyone take a call on a cell phone. It was families playing together, in the simplest of ways that we in the U.S. seem to have lost. I reveled in it.
As the afternoon wore on, it got to time to haul the anchor and start back for Brendal’s dock. From the time we left the dock, dropped the hook, and raised the anchor, we hadn’t even started the boat’s engine. As we came off the anchorage, Jenni took the wheel, and only relinquished it to me for a very brief moment as we sailed away from the beach. Brendal spread the sails out wing-and-wing, and Jenni sailed us home.
All the way home … all the way up the channel in the harbor, and right to Brendal’s dock … and we never once started the engine. I was as proud as a dad can be when we rounded up into the wind at the dock, picked up the lines, warped the boat back to her mooring, and called it a good job. She’d done exceptionally well for not having been on a sailboat for several years, and never having piloted one that size.
I remarked on several occasions today that, if you looked up “Vacation” on Wikipedia … you’d see a video of our day today. It might not be for everyone. I know there are people who need to have the glizt and cacophony or organized activities or television or SOMETHING. But today,we got to live a little bit like the Bahamians live on Green Turtle Cay. It was Independence Day. Their equivalent of our 4th of July. But the celebration was so much different. And we got to live it.
It’s why we go. We were given a gift today. And 6 hours after getting off the boat … I’m still rocking.
Diving tomorrow … Bertha permitting.