We made our first foreign landfall on Monday, April 7th and life is looking up. As you have probably read, our passage here was rough (and wet), but the island hospitality and atmosphere, along with the view of the blue-green water from our dock, surrounded by palm trees and tropical flowers, have made the last two months of getting here all worth it.
We have spent a little more than a week here at Old Bahama Bay Marina and Resort. We took a slip at the marina in order to have access to unlimited fresh water for cleaning the salt water out of everything that got wet down below and the long dock to lay it all out to dry in the sun. Slowly, we have been drying out, rinsing mattresses, cushions and pillows, drying books and games and wiping down the boat with bleach water. Most things were salvageable. Our boat is probably cleaner than it has been in a long time!
We have been blessed to be "stuck" in this beautiful place. Our slip is right up against the beach, so the boys can just go out and play right at the boat. We get to enjoy all the resort's amenities as part of our slip fee. There is a gorgeous pool and we can use their towels. There are bicycles, Hobie cat sailboats, glass bottom kayaks and more. We have enjoyed it all. The other night we were welcomed at the Manager's Reception (free food and drinks). The staff and other boaters are all very friendly. Everyone greets everyone as you pass. It is very refreshing.
On Sunday morning we borrowed bicycles and rode 1.5 miles into town ("village," as the islanders refer to it; "town" is 20 miles away.) to attend church at St. Mary Magdelene's Anglican Church. It was a wonderful, inspiring experience.
We bicycled up to church at around 9:50 am Sunday. Parking our bicycles around back, we saw a teenage girl in white robes turning charcoal briquettes on a single burner electric element. We were welcomed into the rear of the church and invited to sit after receiving our programs. Their version of Earl Keike was there to welcome us. Other than one visitor from London, we were the only white people in attendance, which was just an interesting feeling for a lot of reasons. The opening hymn, and the second hymn, were sung a cappella. About 30 minutes after the service began, a young man came in, seeming a little "late" and rushed, and took his seat at the organ, and there was enthusiastic organ music for the rest of the service. We didn't confirm, but I wonder whether the organist was just on "island time". And it didn't matter. The choir sang with such strength and exuberance without the accompaniment that they almost didn't need the organ.
Sitting in front of us in the center pews were about a dozen women dressed all in white, with white hats and corsages. It turned out that they were actively involved in the service - reading lessons, taking offering, assisting in other ways. An altar girl would greet and accompany each lady to the altar as it was her turn to participate in the service.
The service began with a very formal, "high church" processional with incense swinging, cross and multiple candle bearing, lots of assistants in robes, and the choir. The rest of the service was a refreshing blend of Anglican high church and Caribbean culture. Passing the peace took over 15 minutes, and we were the only ones who didn't leave the pew to circulate around the room and visit with everyone else. It took a couple of minutes, but soon folks warmed up to us and included us in passing the peace. There seemed to be lots of visiting, and many conversations going on, and lots of laughter and commotion.
The sermon was long, but very focused on a single theme. The pastor spoke entirely without reference to notes, quoting and referring to much scripture, and with a very animated style. Announcements went on forever, but were generally led by a very enthusiastic young man. Each person who spoke to the congregation began with "Good morning", to which the congregation responded in kind - including the readers of the lessons. The gospel was sung/chanted, after a 5 minute or so procession, with incense, that ended up at the center of the church in the center aisle.
At the end of the service Josh noted it was 12:21 - over 2 hours and 20 minutes - but it was one of the most fun, most inspiring, most delightful worship services we have had the joy of attending. Much of that feeling was, I'm sure, the novelty of worshiping in a different environment. But some was
a genuine joy in worship. The congregation sang loudly, and with lots of vigor, even when a little (or a lot) off key. Prayers were long, but were heartfelt. Many children sat together, in a group, but minded by several grandmothers (sitting afar, but offering guidance, sometimes not so quietly, as appropriate).
During the announcements, the assistant welcomed all visitors by name, taking the information from the guest card we had filled out when we arrived. Had we known he would do that, Nancy would have written a little more legibly!
Did we mention loud music, with Caribbean beats, but old traditional hymns? And hymns with verses that went on, and on, and on - one had 9 verses, and we sang them all! Much of the liturgy was the same/similar to ours, but sung much slower, of course - sometimes we were wishing for Alan and his quick beats!
In addition to our chance to worship with the locals, we made several trips by bicycle into the village to shop for groceries - provisioning, as we call it. We knew before arriving in the Bahamas that food here is very expensive, so we loaded Liberty with canned goods of every variety - chickpeas to make hummus, vegetables, chicken breast, canned fruit, and plenty of paper goods. Our pantry is very well stocked, but some things we like to buy fresh, and often - primarily produce, eggs, milk and bread. Before our first foray into town, we asked about stores and found out there are two - the green store and the yellow store - and they are right next to each other. Each is a small building, brightly painted, about the size of a large suburban living
room or a small New York studio apartment, with a few shelves with a limited supply of dusty canned goods, dry goods, and a couple of refrigerators full of frozen meat (chicken, hot dogs, lunch meat) and maybe some vegetables (plantains, tomatoes, onions, maybe carrots). Quality is usually pretty poor, and prices are always quite high - often twice or more what we are accustomed to paying in the USA. We checked out the yellow store first, as we had been told it was the better of the two, and we found a few things (but no milk - the owner told us he didn't have room for milk because one of his refrigerators had broken down some time back, but there was another store/bar across town that usually had milk). Disappointed by the produce selection we stepped next door to the green store, only to find pretty much the same products and prices. We also bought our first (and last) case of beer in the Bahamas, and learned a lesson for next year when we come back - in addition to canned goods, we'll bring plenty of canned beer. Dave paid $36 for a case of Kalik, the local brew, and that was a bargain price! Rum, on the other hand, is pretty cheap, and we got a couple of bottles of local stuff to try out.
While we were here in West End, Dave made a temporary centerboard for Independence, the sailing dinghy that belongs to the boys. Back in Kemah, Chris and Josh took a few sailing lessons in it, but then the centerboard broke and it became a rowing dinghy for a while. With the new centerboard in and the mast and sail up, Christopher took her out for his maiden solo voyage. He sailed around the harbor for about ½ hour and then sailed all the way back to the slip to a standing ovation from the other boaters who were watching (probably partly out of interest and partly to make sure he didn't hit their boat!) Chris was very proud. Hopefully he will get a lot more sailing time in, and Josh is eager to join him. Dave also found wood to make a permanent centerboard and rudder. There is a lot of construction of very expensive vacation homes at West End, including one truly gorgeous mansion being built by a New York lawyer right on the shore. It is a long bicycle ride from the marina (although only a 3 minute dinghy ride across the channel), but Dave went around and found the wood shop at the construction site. After chatting with the workers there, he talked them out of a 3 pieces of very nice teak, and they even planed one piece to the right thickness for the centerboard. Rumor has it that the owner of the house under construction bought an entire forest in Indonesia and logged it for lumber for the house. Some of the scraps will go to good use on the boys' dinghy.
We will leave here in the next day or two, bound for Great Sale Cay on the Grand Bahama Banks. We are eager to get to the Abacos and back on the hook. We plan to cruise the islands for about a month.
Hope you are all well,
Nancy, Dave, Chris and Josh
Aboard s/v Liberty in the Bahamas.
The beach at West End, Bahamas
Nancy & Josh hanging out in the pool!
Nancy & Chris in a glass-bottom kayak
Dave & Josh in a Hobie Cat
St. Mary Magdelene Church, West End, Bahamas
St. Mary Magdelene Church
Chris' maiden solo voyage on
Returning after a successful maiden solo voyage
Curly-tailed lizards are
everywhere on West End
Curly-tailed lizards are
everywhere on West End