2019 Letter #2 from the Bahamas by Greg and Barbara Allard
“People who live on continents get into the habit of regarding the ocean as journey’s end, the full stop at the end of the trek. For people who live on islands, the sea is always the beginning. It’s the ferry to the mainland, the escape route from the boredom and narrowness of home.”
― Jonathan Raban, Coasting: A Private Voyage
We have been traveling with our friends Jim and Ellen. Jim has been playing with a new drone and has taken some excellent pictures, including this one of our boat Meander (lower boat, dark hull) in the mooring field at Warderick Wells. Their boat, Latitude, is just above ours. We’ll show a couple more of Jim’s drone photos later.
The water looks just like what’s shown in the photo; under the boats it is about 12’ deep. The lightest colored water is just inches deep.
A rock cairn, a decorative pile of rocks which has been used for centuries. Former boy and girl scouts will remember this is a way to mark a trail. It has also been used to delineate property lines This one was erected on the beach by visitors.
A sisal tree in bloom. These trees were brought to the Bahamas in the eighteenth century, as an excellent source of strong natural fibers which were used to make ropes for ships. That industry was long ago abandoned, but there are a few scattered trees which remind us of those times.
The Bahamas are primarily made of limestone, and only a few of the islands have enough soil to grow some vegetables and fruit. The rest of the vegetation has to find a nook or cranny to set down roots in the rock or sand, sometimes not successfully. This was once a bush along the beach, but it seems to have taken a new life as a model for “The Creature from the Deep”.
The end of the school day at Black Point, a time loved by children everywhere. All Bahamian school children wear uniforms.
Black Point is an island community, one of our favorites. The island has a population of around 400, many of whom work on neighboring islands and commute there by boat.
This young man was enjoying his ice slush. He’s thinking: “Don’t even try to take this from me.” Love the hair.
Peermon Rolle runs a bakery out of her home. She makes some of the best Bahamian bread, especially her coconut bread. We can’t go to Black Point without buying several loaves.
Peermon’s granddaughter, and great granddaughter.
On the quiet main street of the Black Point settlement, you’ll find any number of residents sitting in their front yards “plaiting” – that is, weaving thin strands of palm into long strips of material usually between two and four inches wide. Those strips are then sold, by the roll, to straw makers in Nassau, who use the strips to make bags, hats or baskets. Most of the straw weavers engaged in this cottage industry are women, but this man named Boise was busy at work; his fingers were impossibly fast. We bought three rolls of plait from Boise and his wife Corrine, also a weaver.
The next day, Peermon showed Barbara and Ellen how to use the strips of plait, and the techniques for fastening them together.
Is this a boat-goat, or a goat-boat? As billy-goats go, this one was friendly, taking some shelter from the sun under this Bahamian competitive sailing vessel.
In the last Letter, we showed you a photo of a spotted eagle ray. This is a different photo of the ray, more clearly showing a remora fish under the ray’s left wing. In this case, the remora is not attached to the wing and is just swimming freely under the ray, but usually the remora attach themselves to rays, sharks and other fish, and go along for the ride.
This photo is of a large free swimming remora (also called a suckerfish), which swam under the dock at Black Point. They are regularly 8-15 inches long, and usually not more than 31”. This remora is a large one, almost three feet. Note the strange flat disc on his head which is what he uses to clamp onto the host fish. The vanes of the disc act like suction cups. It is said that the remora serves to clean the undersides of their host fish from parasites and growth. We’ve never experienced it, but we have heard that sometimes they approach divers or small boats, and attempt to attach to them; they are easily removed if pushed forward.
This seagull was lucky. It’s likely he lost his leg to a shark.
A green sea turtle, in one of the creeks at Shroud Cay.
Diving Thunderball at Staniel Cay. This rock island, with an underwater cave, is named after the James Bond Thunderball movie, where a few of the scenes were filmed. The best snorkeling is not in the cave, but outside, on the east, north and south sides, where there are some excellent coral formations with a good variety of fish, and fewer divers.
A blue Tang.
In a prior letter we showed you a hand-carved fish head from Spanish Wells. We found this driftwood board, with its fish created by nature, on a beach in the Exumas.
Barbara navigates our dinghy through the shallows.
We mentioned earlier that our friend Jim was experimenting with a new drone, and he took these next two pictures. I’m including them here, because they offer a different perspective on the beauty of the Bahamas.
This is a view of Shroud Cay with its serpentine creek which cuts right through the island, running from the Exuma Banks to the Exuma Sound. At high tide we took a dinghy through it; someone compared it to an African Queen experience.
Just south of Warderick Wells. There are no other words needed for this photo.
This derelict boat washed up on the beach in front of David Copperfield’s house on Musha Cay. Usually boats like this are difficult to get rid of, but we suspect that David will make it disappear.
A simple but engaging painting by a local Bahamian artist.
The end of the day, with the sun melting into the ocean.
This will be our last Letter from the Bahamas. Later this week, weather permitting, we will cross the Florida Straits (the Gulf Stream) back to the U.S. It has been another excellent cruise through this beautiful sea-based country, with its stunning vistas and warm, friendly people.
We are happy you could come along with us.
A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip, a trip takes us.” John Steinbeck
Goodbye for now and warmest regards.
Greg and Barbara
Copyright Greg Allard, 2019
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