*Hello All! I have been living at an Ashram completing a 30 day intensive yoga teacher training course. During that time Kyle has been on the boat and has had friends come visit. Since I have not had any time to write, he has taken over and the next few posts will be from him 🙂 Enjoy!*
We arrived in Nassau after a few days anchored at Rose Island. It had been 3 weeks since we had been anywhere “civilized” although that’s arguably a strange term of identification for cities. The hustle and bustle of the harbor, the constant noise of traffic, trash, smog and general decrepit nature of it all was well, a bit of a change. The anchorage we needed to be in for a multitude of reasons lies between an island that is dedicated to local commercial use and the docks/mooring jetties for the cruise ships. The outside edge of the anchorage is a commercial/main harbor channel, the inside being a small channel for the access to the 5 or 6 marinas and mega yacht docks. So the anchorage is a very strictly defined space.
We came into the harbor a few days early due to weather, a descending cold front and its low pressure were bringing 25-30 knot winds that were to last for conceivably the next couple weeks- according to our satellite forecasts which we prayed were wrong. Once we came into harbor in slightly milder conditions than forecasted at 15, gusting 20. We found a spot to anchor and spent the afternoon in the boat to make sure we didn’t move the anchor as this harbor is pretty notorious for poor holding. I had dived and inspected our anchor and its set- the bottom being grass (which is fairly unreliable on its own) and lightly covered in debris and garbage. We then went for a trip ashore and upon returning a few hours later found that our boat had bumped into our neighbor. Very, not good. So now in the dark and the wind we upped anchor and looked around for a new place. Nothing was available really, but we carefully found a compromise and anchored down. This worked until morning, when the tide changed again and we ended up literally 10ft from our new neighbor. Not good again. But we knew what was available in the packed anchorage and that there was no where to go, so we had a conversation with the neighbor and decided to stay. In the meantime we spent the day aboard anxiously watching out the windows during the gusts to make sure we didn’t get any closer to our neighbor. I decided to try my hand baking fresh cookies and we shared the yummy (though slightly bottom burned) results with our now new friends 10’ away- the kids loved them.
See the problem is that Sirocco in much more boat below the water than above. Like the noble iceberg, she is much more than what appears to the eye, or in this case wind. This means she generally ignores the wind and does whatever the water does, if the tide runs in one directions- that’s where Siroccos lays. Even in these conditions of 20-30kn of wind, she lies to the tide. Modern sailboats do what they can to reduce wetted surface of the hull (the area below the water) in order to encourage faster speeds in the light winds that modern sailors prefer to sail in. The rustling of that being that modern boats tend to ignore the tide and lie to the wind, subsequently creating a conflict between Sirocco and the boats around her.
In the middle of the night we very gently bumped into our neighbors and needed to move. At this point Danielle and I were VERY tired of the anchorage. We ended up after circling the entire anchorage anchoring nearby in the same place. The next day we tried moving to a completely different anchorage- it was way worse conditions there than where we had been and turned back. We tried the other side of the commercial channel, failure. Tried near a beach, failure.
Finally something miraculous happened: a big boat left! This opened up a gloriously large and spacious spot and as we raced towards it, light beaming upon it from the heavens, angels singing, even the first boat we had bumped into was pointing right at our destination encouraging us to grab it. Once anchored down, the relief we felt is difficult to convey. This experience had been the most frustrating anchoring/harbor experience we have ever had, Danielle and I have sailed about 10,000 miles together and this was by FAR the worst. But now that we had a space, the world was much brighter and our time here much happier. It’s not Nassau’s fault really, it’s Christmas, New Years, the weather and the only dinghy dock in the area..
We then reserved a rental car online and took bets whether it would actually be there when we showed up to the rental car shop. To pick it up we walked through a very impoverished part of town, the man singing in the middle of the street double fisted with beer at 10am was our first sign. Our second sign was a women in a nice car coming home from church pulling over to say “I hope you know where your going in this neighborhood”.. But in typical Bahamian style we arrived in safety with nothing but laughter from our walk. The car was not there, the door was locked, but we found a nice man “fixing up the old cars” and he called a women in charge, who quickly organized a car to arrive for us and off we went- only 25 minutes later than planned- wonderful!
Now being from the US, we drive on the right side of the road with the drivers seat on the left. The Bahamas has a long British history and they drive on the left with our rental car having the steering wheel on the right. I was nominated driver. Signed the paper, put in my license number on another form and we were ready to go. We had nothing to prove we had rented the car and when we asked the representative what to do if we are pulled over his response was “You wont be pulled over”… Okay. Off we go. It took us 15 minutes and 9 roundabouts to make it to the airport where we picked up Danielle’s parents Nina and Fred. They were in great spirits and surprisingly they happily climed into our tiny compact tin can without a word or sign of apprehension. As I pulled out onto the street without waiting for a spot to enter traffic and of course driving on the wrong side of the road: it hit them. “Oh my god” Nina says with a giggle. Fred was just openly laughing out loud and by the third roundabout Nina was laughing regularly saying: “I am so happy your diving Kyle!” Here in the Bahamas as in many developing countries, rules of the road are more akin to suggestions and the horn is not used to chastise, its a communication device of the highest order delivering an incredible amount of conversation. Everyone, although driving with haste in a seemingly erratic manner has infinite patience and generally carries on fine no matter the offense committed. Pretty much every car you see in the Bahamas is full of dents, except the new shiny ones, but I have come to understand that its fairly rare for major deadly accidents as the roads/traffic naturally limit the speeds to somewhere near 35mph or less.
The next day we ran errands all day and had a marvelous time laughing at the nonsensical nature of the stores and people. Why not sell machetes in the toy section of the store? Kids love machetes! And you would certainly need to gaze over some new bedding if you were shopping the shovels and garden tools because after a day of shoveling, you would be ready to lie in your bed right? We found a lovely couple of gals that do commercial laundry for the mega yachts and dropped off our modest bag of sheets. We came back to pick them up at the end of the day and gladly took a discount for them not being folded instead of waiting. We then parked the car, said thank you’s to the universe for surviving the day driving around and went to dinner. Fred and Nina spoiled us to dinner every night and they gave us some wonderful Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve (my families tradition is to give gifts on the eve anyway) as they flew out Christmas morning. Great time was had by all.
Personally one of my favorite reasons to visit other places is the food! People who go to a new country or even a new region of the US and eat at a chain restaurant baffle me. A chain restaurant is so homogenous and predictable, where as the small local places run by families and passionate restauranteurs can give you the chance to experience something completely unexpected. Heirloom recipes of old favorites, new twists on ingredients you know or sometimes completely new dishes with ingredients you have never heard of. Some of my favorite foods to cook lately are not dishes I grew up with, but new foods I have picked up in the last decade along the way. Of the places we went with Fred and Nina, my favorite was a Phillipanese place, right when we walked in I knew it was going to be good as no one in the room eating spoke English. Everyone in the group loved their food and my squid was perfectly cooked, which can be very hard to do. I took both my visitors to this place and we always enjoyed it.
Now Danielle was scheduled to go to her yoga teacher training course on the 2nd. So we were able to celebrate New Year’s Eve together, which is very special here in the Bahamas because its Junkanoo night! Or morning? It’s a party so good they don’t even start until Midnight. My friend Max (#1) came in early to celebrate the New Year with us and experience Junkanoo. We were out on the streets by 1am, after our “Disco Nap” as Max calls them (a saying I have taken up) and we stayed out until after 4am!! So wild of us. Haha Danielle and I have the habit of sleeping and waking with the sun (Circadian rhythm) so for us to stay out so late seemed the very essence of extravagance.
Junkanoo is a cultural event of the Bahamas that is spreading because of its fun loving and incredibly enjoyable nature. Large teams (some well over a hundred) and small teams alike are assigned a theme and they create a parade around this theme. It encompasses choreographed dancing, a band, individual headdress competitions “off the shoulder” individual float competitions and group versions of all the above. Danielle and I attended both competitions this year, although did not have the stamina to stay for the entire event or either. The costumes are one time use. They literally make a lap of two streets: the paid bleachers on Main Street, and then the “free standing” upper street. We chose the free standing upper street both times and were all the better for it. Surrounded by passionate locals we were let in on how the costumes, dancing, and performances are judged. It deeply enriched our experience to understand the competition side of the event and we truly thank the nice folks we stood with for teaching us.
Nassau has been inundated with Haitians since hurricane Dorian. On our second Junkanoo experience we stood with a large group of them and enjoyed their company, some small children found us white folk quite curious and we had some color based discussion that hopefully resulted in a change of perspective on both sides, especially with one particular young girl. We really enjoyed the opportunity to speak openly about some of our differences and laugh about it, in a honesty that sometimes only children can have. During our first Junkanoo a young Bahamian girl had questions for me about my missing ear (lost in a violent car accident for those who do not know), her father was embarrassed and I took time to dispel his anxiety over her questions and encouraged her open and honest curiosity. These experiences, discussing cultural differences and having close conversations while getting to know some of the residents on a first name level were the true joys of Junkanoo for me. I loved the dancing and costumes, but the opportunity to laugh and have fun with those that are unfamiliar with my culture and to spend some hours getting a glimpse of an important part of theirs was incredible. Being a cruise ship based tourism here in Nassau, I think the impression left by these 5-10 hour visitors/visits can be a little unfair on both sides. Patience is a virtue easily fatigued by exercise and the endless trampling of these single serving guests is exceedingly tiring.
Danielle was all packed up, Max1 and I had all our groceries and where ready to go. So I dropped her off at the Ashram with soft eyes and big hugs, wishing her the best. Max1 and I upped anchor and moved over to the fuel dock to fill up on water and take on 5 gallons of diesel before shoving off to Rose Island anchorage to state us for our passage to Eleuthera…
More on Eleuthera next time!