2019 Letter from the Bahamas by Greg and Barbara Allard
“We all come from the sea, but we are not all of the sea. Those of us who are, we children of the tides, must return to it again and again, until the day we don’t come back leaving only that which was touched along the way.”
—Frosty Hesson, Chasing Mavericks
Hi Friends – Some final pictures from Eleuthera, then some from the Exumas, a beautiful group of islands and cays in the central Bahamas.
The biggest challenge we face is the weather. We’ve cruised in the Bahamas for a number of years, but during the last three we found that there were more times when the wind was unrelenting, when the seas looked like this – or worse – every day for weeks on end.
As the old-salts say: the boat can take more than you can. We agree. We avoid such seas whenever possible. However, some times we leave on a calm day after we consult multiple weather sources, but the forecasts turn out to be wrong, and we have to deal with large seas for hours. Paradise is not perfect.
Marilyn and Phil operate a small organic farm on Eleuthera. We bought several of the famous Eleuthera pineapples from them. You may think you’ve had a good pineapple before tasting one from this island. Phil showed us how to propagate a pineapple by cutting off its top and planting it.
Marilyn has a killer smile.
Elliot, the owner of Tippy’s restaurant on Eleuthera. He’s also the lead singer in their Saturday night band. Yes, he is a character.
Tarpum Bay, on Eleuthera, is a poor settlement, with the look of a place struggling to survive. Yet the community found the resources to build this new waterside swing and hammock set for their children. Pride of place. Correct priorities.
Earlier in this trip we showed you a Ghost crab. This is his cousin – a Land crab. Some land crabs can spread their claws sideways and they will be two feet wide. This variety is a bit smaller, but his beautiful colors make up for any size envy. I particularly liked the face: a perpetual frown moulded into his shell. Sadly, he never gets to smile.
We visited Charles Strachan in his home. He is a basket weaver, and uses only the fronds from silver top palms for his work; he says they are the strongest and most durable. Barbara plans to use the large round mat as a wall hanging.
Our next leg brought us to the Exumas, a group of islands in the central Bahamas. The Exuma Land and Sea Park is a legally designated sanctuary where fishing, lobstering, collecting shells or removal of any natural item are not permitted. The Park is twenty two miles long and 8 miles wide, and consists of dozens – if not hundreds – of cays and islands.
When we arrived at Warderick Wells, the island where the park office is located, we were happy to see the new Metal Shark boat, built by the company where our son Chris is CEO.
I was fortunate to join the Park Administrator and go out on patrol. Captain Joseph Ierna Jr., the Administrator, was at the helm, and one of the Royal Bahamian Defense Force Marines – who are regulars on board – was at the bow. Joe commented that he liked that the Metal Shark boat gave the impression of “all business” – that it was intimidating in a way, which made his enforcement duties easier. My response to Joe: “Yes, the boat certainly has a military, aggressive look, but I do think that much of the intimidation was due to the large muscular Marine, Tamal, at the bow, with a sidearm.”
Tamal exchanges some paperwork with a sailboat which was anchored in the Park.
Yes, maybe even a bit ferocious.
Captain Joe Ierna. He’s brought fresh ideas, sound business sense and a new approach to the Park.
The Bahamas are as beautiful underwater as they are above. The visibility is incredible. We estimated here that it was over 250’. When I used to dive in the Northeast, we were happy to have 30’ of visibility. At the top of the photo you can see the underside of the surface of the water.
There is a huge variety of soft and hard coral. At the upper right is a brain coral. Lower left are sea rods. In the center is what we think is a saucer coral. On our boat we carry some excellent guides to fish, coral and reef creatures, but sometimes especially with coral, identification is difficult. So for convenience we call the dark green one in the center a vase coral.
One of the most beautiful fish in the sea – a stunning Queen Angelfish.
The colors on this Ocean Surgeonfish are more subtle than those of the Queen Angel, but this fish is just beautiful.
A purple sea fan with a large parrot fish feeding on the coral.
A spotted eagle ray, with a wingspan close to eight feet. It’s humbling to swim near something so big. Under his left wing, look for the tail of a remora fish. More about that in a future letter. The ray’s tail is so long it extends outside of the picture, to the right.
More recent brain coral, growing over some older coral.
These fish are called Sergeant Majors, because of their chevron-like markings. This photo may look like it was taken through an aquarium window, but the location is on a reef just north of Cambridge Cay. The fish closest to the camera was particularly curious. He thought we had brought food…
The fish in the Park have nothing to fear from man because they are in the sanctuary of the Park. (How do they know if they are in the Park?) In any event, they are relaxed around divers.
So…Just in case you thought the last photo was from an aquarium, our friend Ellen took this photo of me, surrounded by dozens of Sergeant Majors, as I tried to take the previous picture!
This reef, aptly enough, is called The Aquarium.
Sunset over the Land and Sea Park.
Today on a remote beach we bumped into two longtime Bahamian friends, who are involved in the marine and tourism business. We were all swimming together, and she commented that the water was almost too warm to be refreshing. We had noticed that this year the water in the Bahamas was warmer much earlier (we could swim in April) and the waters are now warmer than we have ever experienced in June. They said that this really concerns them as we have just entered the hurricane season, and that it’s too early for the water to be so warm. Hurricanes view warm water as food. They thrive on it, and it makes them grow.
As we consider how long we will remain in the Bahamas, our friends’ comments will have weight on our decision. It’s a long way home, and our boat does not go faster than a hurricane.
Warmest regards until next time
Greg and Barbara
Copyright 2019 Greg Allard