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    • 2022 Letter #1 from the Bahamas by Greg and Barbara Allard

      Our sincerest thanks to Greg and Barbara Allard for once again sharing their thoughts and beautiful photography from their Bahamas cruises. These photos and descriptions will have you aching to follow in Meander‘s wake! For more this excellent photography, type Allard in our Homepage search window for letters from previous cruises.

      Hello everyone –  It has been almost three years since our last visit to the Bahamas and our  Letters from the Bahamas.  In 2020, in preparation for the trip, we crossed Florida on the Okeechobee waterway, and arrived in Stuart on the east coast;  the news of Covid had travelled with us.  After waiting for two weeks, we turned around and went home. That was a good choice – we later met some friends who were there already, and they were instructed to leave the Bahamas immediately and were not allowed to even go ashore anywhere. 
      Last year we made a second attempt,  but the evolving new strains caused the Bahamian government to impose strict additional measures, so we cancelled that crossing.
      This year was better.  Since we had received both vaccinations, as well as two subsequent booster shots, the only requirement was that we have a Covid test no more than three days before we were scheduled to arrive in the Bahamas.  That sounds easy, but we had to do it three times; the weather and winds did not cooperate, so the planned crossings after the first two tests were cancelled.  
      But…we are here now, and we are thrilled to be back. As in prior years, we are traveling with our friends Ellen and Jim on their Outer Reef named  Latitude.
      So here is our first  Letter from the Bahamas for 2022.  As always, if you would prefer to no longer receive them, please let us know.
      – Greg and Barbara Allard
      2022 Letter from the Bahamas
      As we sat for our first Covid test in the clinic in Stuart, FL, the technician left the test instruments on the counter for 15 minutes, and we could see that both tests were negative. We then had to upload the results to the new on-line Bahamian web site (called Click2Clear), to obtain our Bahamian Health Care Visas and Cruising Permit.  As with any new system it has its challenges; at one point I renamed it “Click2Crash”, but since we had to do it three times, we became experts.
      For those who are joining us for these letters for the first time and are unfamiliar with our boat, here is a photo.  She is named  Meander and we have owned her for almost ten years. It is traditional, for centuries, to refer to a vessel as a “she”.  We follow that custom.  Meander  is a 61’ Tollycraft Raised Pilot House, built in the State of Washington. Her equipment includes two generators, a water maker to convert sea water to fresh water suitable for drinking, and a dinghy with an outboard, stored on the upper aft deck, which allows us to go to shore if we are anchored, or to explore remote back-waters.
      The seas were in turmoil from the strong winds which have been blowing in Florida and the Bahamas this season.
      This was the goal, one worth reaching.  The north shore beach on Great Harbour Cay, in the Berry Islands.
      Great Harbour Cay is a small island with a population of around 600.  The mailboat is “scheduled” to come from Nassau once a week, but for the last three weeks it has been locked in port due to the heavy winds.  That boat is somewhat misnamed, since it does not just deliver the mail, but everything else that this island needs to survive: food, medications, household appliances, building materials.  Since the mailboat had been delayed for so long, the two local food stores were essentially out of fresh vegetables, fruit, and staples such as cheese, milk and eggs.
      Covid hit this small island hard.  Eleven people died, which is a much higher percent than in the U.S.  And the economy, dependent largely on tourism, was badly impacted.
      While the Bahamas have outstanding beaches and stunning gin-clear water, readers from past Letter know that we focus on what we find most rewarding:  the people of the Bahamas.   They are wonderful, warm, friendly, and always willing to help a visitor.  The first lesson that a traveller needs to learn in a visit to the Bahamas is that the pace of life here is different.  There is a commendable lack of urgency about almost everything (except a true emergency.)  It takes a while for the average American to adjust to that. 
      While we were here, we had a problem with a deck drain leaking into the engine room.  A hose had failed; when traveling this far from home, we carry an extensive spare parts inventory, but we just did not have a hose of the particular size needed.  I mentioned this to our friend  Elorn,  a local Bahamian whom we have known for years, and a deacon at his church.  Two days later another Bahamian named  Quincy  appeared at our boat with a hose – which exactly met the specs of what we needed. (More on Quincy in the next Letter). The hose was in a package labelled “Peugeot”.  I don’t think we have ever seen a Peugeot on this island, so how that hose came to be here is a mystery.  Quincy  suggested that I discuss the hose with his father, who was sitting in a jeep nearby.  So off I went, and met the man in the picture above,  Alvin Rolle. Alvin, as almost everyone here, does a little bit of everything to earn a living.  He catches and supplies conch meat, does all kinds of jobs, and most importantly, has parts for boats and houses and ’tings.  I asked him how he knew what exact hose we needed, and he said “Elorn told me”.  He wanted to give me the hose at no charge, but we settled on a fair price.
      Great Harbour Cay Marina – at the traditional cruisers’ bar-b-que on Friday nights.  A local woman comes to the marina with chicken and ribs, and with the deliciously famous Bahamian Mac ’n Cheese.  The fellow cruisers we meet are an interesting group. Most of them don’t hang their hat on their prior achievements; rather, the talk is of cruising the Bahamas, boats, and the weather.
      On the eastern shore of Great Harbour is the  Beach Club,  an outdoor tiki-bar and restaurant operated by the marina.  It overlooks a magnificent beach. We go there often for cracked conch and cold Kaliks, the national beer.  This is one of the waitresses, Clinique.  The first picture I took of her was uninspiring – she had no smile.  Then I used the magic phrase universally used by Bahamian women: “Work it girl!”, and it resulted in a much better photo. She is a terrific waitress, and a friendly, warm person. We talked with her for a long time on several occasions.
      Barbara holds a beautiful Queen Conch, with some magnificent colors.
      Yes, some of you have seen this picture before.  It is one of our favorite views on Great Harbour Cay, especially with a
      hint of the little pink house down by the water, and the stunning shadows of the palms on the road.
      Fresh water is always a concern for residents of these remote islands.  In most places there are wells, some produce decent water, and others….that well water is not so good.  On Great Harbour Cay, the marina operates a reverse osmosis system (similar to the watermaker on our boat) – a complex piece of machinery which converts sea water into drinkable water. Boats in the marina are charged fifty cents a gallon for that water (if they don’t have their own watermaker). The marina has a decent policy showing support for the community which allows local residents to take that water for their own use at home, for no charge.  Here, a father and son fill two five-gallon jugs.
      In the next Letter you will meet several other interesting Bahamians and travel with us by dinghy to explore some remote and spectacular areas of the Berry Islands.
      Warmest regards to you all.
      Greg and Barbara
      Copyright Greg Allard 2022


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