A Re-Visit to St Augustine

I did promise another blog sooner than this but have failed in that sorry.We spent almost 3 weeks in Vero Beach at my cousins, Stan and Susan, ahhhhh family there is nothing like it.  I wanted to acknowledge the people who we have met over the past months. We have seen and experienced many wonderful unique events and Eric and I couldn’t have imagined the joy and awe in God’s creative hand. The fish, underwater beauty, flowers, islands, I could go on and on BUT I want to say that  as we are now turned around and heading North I am reflecting on the individuals that we have been impacted by. Some we know their names and some we don’t yet my life is fuller because of them. Everyone from Miss Alice in Elizabeth City to Fr. Ethan in Georgetown Bahamas, each person I saw a passion in them to live beyond their own wants and needs, to give, love and bless others. During this Lenten season I am challenged that this is what living and life is all about, to love, give and see others in a gracious, merciful and sacrificial way.

Now here we are back in St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest city in the US and saw many different countries govern them over a 200 year period. The architecture is spectacular and the history is deep.  When we were here in December we only saw the external buildings and read a tiny bit of the history. In December we knew we would come back and stay for a few days and really take our time and explore the city which we did! This city has been governed by the Spanish, British, Spanish, and finally the Americans. In the early years the French Huguenots also made an appearance and bid for Florida. What all this change of governments did was to create a very diverse community that was a welcoming and safe place to live. There was an underground railroad that led south as well as north, Florida was the destination for slaves who were on the run from plantations just up north.

A huge part of the history here is from a man by the name of Henry Flagler. He seems to be the man who could see the potential of tourism in St Augustine. He built a beautiful hotel which today is Flagler College, plus another hotel, several churches(Grace Methodist, Ancient City Baptist and Memorial Presbyterian Church),a railway, and a hospital! Each building is quite extravagant in design having Mr. Tiffany designing beautiful stained glass and nothing but the best for his buildings. Our heads are on overload with all the information and history that we have taken in these last few days. We visited the Catholic Church and the Presbyterian churches and wow!!!! They were beautiful. After we visited the churches in the morning we did a Winery tour, a Distillery tour and a Micro Brewery in the afternoon! A bit of a fall from grace, maybe??

By the time the 50 & 60’s segregation was quite entrenched in St Augustine and became a pivotal city regarding the civil rights movement. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr marched here, it was the only other city that he marched in other than his participation in the march in Selma Alabama.

This city is full of history, architecture, and fabulous food. If you are heading to Florida and have a little time stop in and enter a city that will entertain you, teach you and just fill you with awe. As you can see we have quite enjoyed the days that we have spent here. Tomorrow morning we will head off and continue up the ICW.

 

 

 

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Baseball and Willie Nelson, Gators and Strawberries

We have been in Vero Beach Fl now for just over two weeks.  Let me recount our return from the Bahamas first and then bring you up to the present and have a look into the next season for us.

After we said goodbye to Andrew and Amy we began the journey north up the Exuma Chain of Islands.  We hit a couple of places along the way that we missed on our way down, notably Stanial Cay and Compass Cay.   Pigs, Caves, Sharks etc.

One of the things that has become clear is that not many people actually live in the Exumas other than Black Point and Georgetown.

Many of the other places are really just Marinas for mega yachts and extremely expensive.

 

To change things up a bit we decided to go into Nassau for a couple days to see where most of the people actually do live.

I met the Bishop of the Bahamas while I was there and got some insight into the nature of the church.   I am impressed with the overall health and ministry of this part of the Anglican family.

 

Our plan was to sail from Nassau to Mackie Shoal, and then to Bimini,and then finally to Ft. Lauderdale.   Due to circumstances beyond our control (weather),  29 hours after we left Nassau we pulled into Lake Sylvia in Ft Lauderdale.   The weather was mostly great….except for the last hour, when we found ourselves under a thunder cell.    Rain and Wind.

 

The next day we moved up to West Palm and picked up Stan and Susan, Val’s cousin.    We then traveled up the ICW as far as Stuart where we enjoyed a Cruisers Pot Luck and live music.     The final leg to Vero happened the next day.

Vero Beach is known by cruisers as Velcro Beach.   I asked one cruiser when he got back from the Bahamas and he said in less than a month it would be one year!    It really is a great place and I could totally understand someone sailing down from Canada and just stopping here for the winter.   Everything you need is here.

While here we have seen Aligators, Manetees, Pigs, Baseball, Willie Nelson and eaten a lot of Strawberries.

See our FB posts for details and pics

We are heading back over to Tampa on Tuesday to attend a conference about Seafarers sponsored by the North American Maritime Ministry organization.   When we return we will begin to move the boat North again.   Out plans are to stop in a few places that have some history to absorb, notably St Augustine, Savannah, and Charleston again.

 

 

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Pigs, Iguanas and Family

Hi everyone, it has been a while since I have written a blog and my dear mother in law reminded me of such yesterday so I guess this one is for you Ruth Anne.
Eric has pretty much kept you up to date to our little day sails to different points here in the south of the Exuma Chain of Islands. The Bahamas are 700 islands with only 30 inhabited, this is not counting the Cays (keys). The islands are divided up like provinces, ie; Berry Islands, Abacos, Bimini, Grand Bahama, Andros, Exumas, Long Island, and there are others. We have visited very few when you consider the vastness of the area that these islands would have. So we are just finishing a 4 week visit in the Exuma and Long Island area.
This past week, Jan 27 – Feb 3, we had Andrew and Amy come and spend time with us. For me, it was just what the doctor ordered. It was such a blessing to have them with us, even though Amy was pretty sick when she arrived, we were concerned that they might not make it! I’m sure it was out of her sheer will that she got here. While they were here Amy had a few activities on her wish list, seeing the swimming pigs and iguanas and Andrew wanted to snorkel and scuba dive. I think we checked everything on their list and maybe a few more experiences.
On Monday it was overcast and we pretty much relaxed. Amy was pretty much spent from the travel, short on sleep from coughing and getting up early to catch their plane. Eric and Andrew went into Georgetown in the evening for Rake and Scrape. It is the type of music that is native to the Bahamas. It involves hand made drums(Goombay), hand saw/hammer, guitar, accordion and what other instruments might be available. On Mondays you can go the local pub and possibly join the ad hoc band. Andrew got the privilege and joy to play with them for a song, I know he would have loved to play with them more but it was not to be.
Tuesday we sailed to White Bay Cay (key) . On White Bay Cay we saw the swimming pigs. Yes they do swim….. out to your inflatable dinghy…. and then try to get in so they can eat all the carrots FIRST! Yikes!!!! They are quite aggressive, they don’t share well to the point of biting each other, running each other over so they can get the carrots, hmmmm so when you call someone a pig it is definitely not a compliment. It was wild there for a while, you had to hide that you had any carrots or they would be all over you. As soon as we ran out of carrots they literally ignored us, the ungrateful wretches! They just threw themselves down on the sand and went to sleep which was nice for us, since we could then look around and we found 2 litters of piglets who were about 3 weeks old.
Wednesday we went over to Leaf Cay to see the rock iguanas. On this wee island there are about forty iguanas of all sizes sitting on the beach. We had cabbage to feed these much more patient and polite reptiles. Yes some of the old codgers were staring each other down but none of us felt we in danger of getting our fingers bit off or toes trampled on.
Thursday -Saturday we hiked, snorkeled, scuba dived, got tattooed and just enjoyed one another. Sunday came all too early and I must say they were wishing they could stay as well. They returned tanned, relaxed, refreshed and for Amy almost healed ready to return to the winter life looking forward to spring to come soon.
We now have done laundry, got some provisions and today (Feb 6) we are now heading back up the Bahama islands. We are going to stop in a few places that we didn’t get to see on the way down. I have another blog percolating in my head that I will write soon. Thanks for following us

 

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Back to Elizabeth Harbour

We found a spot at the bottom of the sign

It was a great week of visiting, fishing and sightseeing, but it was now time to go back to Georgetown and Elizabeth harbour to await Andrew and Amy’s arrival at the end of the month.   We moved the boat back out of Joe Sound and anchored out in front of the beach where Pete and Christie’s house is.   It was a bit of a rolly night, but we were up at dawn and headed back across Exuma Sound in very light wind.   We arrived back at around 11:00.  This time we anchored over at Monument beach as that was where our friends Bob and Diane on “Two of a Kind” were.   We visited with them and learn more about the area.   They are leaving at the end of the week to go attend the birth of their next Grand Child.   They keep their boat here in Georgetown year round and come down and use it through the winter.

You can see why we had to move at high.

As there is a front (or two) on the way we consider where we might go to anchor to gain some comfort from the wind and the seas.   Stocking Island provides great protection from the prevailing easterlies but can become rather unruly in a south or west wind.  We learn about a group of anchorages behind Crab Cay known as Red Shanks Anchorages.
There are 4 different spots for a bunch of boats.   It is regarded as a hurricane hole, which affords protection from the seas 360 degrees.   It is generally entered at high tide due to the rather skinny water and the entrance and between the holes inside.   We move the boat down to Hole number 1 and wait there while the wind does clock 360 degrees over the next several days.   Since the wind was not much above 15 or 20 it may have been a bit of overkill but we did meet another interesting couple and had a great time snorkeling as well.

 

As sunday approaches we are up in the air about where we might go to church.   There are two options and both will have their challenges.   The first option is to check out “Beach Church” which is held at Chat N Chil   it is a Volunteer lead interdenominational service run by the boating community.   The other option would be to go to St. Andrews Church in Georgetown.   Our immediate problem is distance and weather.   For either location it would be about an hour of travel time in our dinghy.   Then there is the weather, which is looking thunderstormish.   Remember this it the same weekend that most churches in Maritime Canada had to reschedule or cancel their services.   The system that is affecting them is the same system (much warmer) that we are dealing with.   It stretches all the way from Cuba up to Newfoundland.

The Beach Church begins at 9:30 and we are back and forth as to go or not, when we look at the sky and it looks particularly dark.  We decide to wait and see what it will be like in an hour and then try to make the 11:00 at St. Andrews.    Within a few minutes we hear on the radio that they have canceled Beach Church.    By 10:00 the sky is looking reasonable so we set out up the inside of Crab Cay, under the bridge, around February Point and into Lake Victoria.   We walk up to the Church, getting there at about 10:40

We note that there is a keyboard and drum kit, along with all the other fixtures and decor you would find in any traditional Anglican Church.  After our experience in Bimini, we are anticipating an alive vibrant community of believers with richness and diversity in their worship tradition…. we are not disappointed!   St. Andrews Parish is the hub church for the Exuma Island area.   It has a school and is active in many community ministries.

The service lasts nearly 2 1/2 hours, which we are regarding as quite normal.   Another visiting family from a resort we note:  is sitting behind us and when the notice the drummer walk in, sticks in hand, they move to the other side of the Church.   We eventually notice that they don’t make it to the end of the service.   Must have been a bit much for them I guess.

I would not have believed it unless I had experienced it.   My hope has always been that each of the traditions are firmly routed in the work of the spirit of God and has in it all of the very best intentions.    As with any tradition, they ways that we do things can eventually get mechanized, wooden, devoid of spirit or locked into some kind of legalism.   Within my view of the Anglican Church there are two main traditions and a third that has come of late.   These are, the Anglo-Catholic movement, The Low Church/Evangelical movement and of late the Renewal or Charismatic movement.   Across Canada and in many other places you can find examples of these traditions that are full functioning models of the body of Christ.     You can find them in healthy  condition or in complete disfunction or anywhere in between.  The thing that we have experienced here however is very unique.    It is a blending together of all the traditions, without loosing or compromising anything.

The service began with a number of songs and hymns as a preparation time.   As the people continued to arrive the strength of the singing and sense of deeply engaged worship increased.    At this point neither the opening hymn, nor the opening sentence had happened.    This was 20 minutes into the service.  Once again we experienced the full depth of an Anglo Catholic Service, with Evangelical preaching and charismatic freedom and anointing.

Later in the week I visited with Ethan, the Rector to ask him about this blend, that we had experienced now on two different islands.   It seems that the reason for it was that when the Charismatic renewal happened it was embraced by the Bishops and other significant leaders    It was intentionally integrated into the liturgical tradition of the time, which was quite traditional.     The result is something very precious.

 

After the service we thought we would get something to eat before we took the long ride back to the boat.   We found however that there was not one restaurant open.   It was Sunday.   It is still a day of rest in the Bahamas!    We knew that there was a weekly Pig Roast happening over at Chat N Chill on Stocking Island, so we headed over there in the dinghy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because of the fronts that rolled through this past week we had time to do some Repairs and upgrades.   Amoung them was to oil the teak, install a new bow roller, fix my centerboard crank holder, repair a crack in the salon table fiddle, make a conch horn etc.

On Thursday we move back out of Red Shanks and anchor in front of Georgetown to do laundry, get water and provision.   Friday morning is the first time we have had not had excessive wind in well over a week.

 

 

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Tropic of Cancer part 2

We passed a quiet (non-rolly) night in front of Chat N Chill   Our plan was to wait until about noon and then head across to Long Island.   My cousin Peter has a place there in Calabash Bay on Galliot Cay.     He and his family arrived on Dec 27 and will be leaving on the 15th, so our timing was just right, but we don’t want to waste any time.    We go ashore in the morning to watch some of the volleyball tournament that has been organized and walk around the general vacinity.   We participate in the cruisers net on Channel 72 which takes every morning.    There is a whole range of information passed on this 1/2 hour special two way radio show!   We check in and say that we are going to leave and return in about a week.

On the beach we find a pole with over 100 signs pointing to destinations all around the world where boats have sailed to Georgetown.   We do not see one for Saint John, so when we return there tomorrow that will be one of the projects.   Here is what we will put on the sign:    Saint John NB 20M 1390NM     This is to say that Saint John is found at 20 degrees magnetic bearing at a distance of 1390 Nautical Miles.

At about noon we depart Elizabeth Harbour for Long Island.   It takes us about 4 hours to cross the sound and we anchor just up the beach from Peters house.

The road up to the yellow house

They are busy that night but we make arrangements to meet them the next morning.   The anchorage is known to have swell in it and we do not sleep well.   At about 7 in the morning just after sun up we move the boat down to the inlet to Joe Sound.   This is a very narrow pass that goes into a sound behind Galliot Cay.    It has total protection from surge and there are often 4 or 5 boats in there.   We anchor so I can take the dinghy in to survey the cut.    The actual route in is only about 25 feet wide with jagged rocks and a wreck around the entrance.    Clearly you want to do this against a small current, with really good light.    The water is so clear that it is very difficult to judge the depth.    You might think that it is 4 or 5 feet when it is in fact 20.   After I take the dinghy in twice I have found the sandy path that avoids the reef.   Ive also determined the bearing to be about 72 deg M.    There are a couple of markers; one a stake and the other a buoy, but they seem to be marking some deceptively shallow points as a warning where not to head toward.   Once I have found the path it is and easy albeit heart stopping transit.

Pete and Christy see that we have moved down to the entrance of Joe Sound and they join us via Kayak.   After a few minutes we go into the anchorage area and secure the boat with two anchors in line with the current. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbhUMQjaySg Here is a great video that describes how to do this.

Cousins Eric and Peter
The Columbus monument. This was the third place that Christopher Columbus jade land fall and the first place that he could get fresh water. We saw the pump he must have used that day as well !

 

The politically corrected monument

Val and I are treated to amazing hospitality during our days here at “The Yellow house” , including a day trip down the island to see various churches and buildings and land features.   Toward the end we come to Deans Blue Hole.   This is a geological phenomenon that is quite common here in the Bahamas but it happens to be the deepest one in the world.  So much of the Bahama bank is only about 15 feet deep.    The Blue hole is over 600 feet straight down.   It is used for the worlds free diving competition.   If you google Deans Blue Hole you will find lots of information.  We climbed the cliff beside it to get a view from the top.

We dined at a marina on the atlantic side and made multiple stops on the way down and back, looking for a variety of items.   This is a normal shopping day.

One of the class A racing sloops
Snow on the wall church
Another Sloop
Flying Fish Restaurant
Very unique church, built by the priest, who then became an Anglican and built a second church
Deans BLUE hole

The highlight however of the whole stay will have to be how we came to an understanding of law enforcement.

The day before Peter and I went out to the local gas Station to pick up some white wine.   They were meeting with some other guests that night and needed to bring some wine.     Unknown to us it was a newly instituted holiday.   (Majority Rule Day)   Look it up; it is quite a story in itself.   When we arrived at the Gas Station/Liquor store the door was locked and there were about a dozen customers waiting around with the understanding that the owner would be back “Soon”   remember we are on “Island Time”   After about 20 minutes he does show up.  Peter asks him if he has white wine and the owner says he has a good selection.   Peter then goes in behind the counter and comes up with four bottles of Chardonnay, perfect for the occasion.   We each come out and place the bottles carefully in the  back seat.   Just as we close the doors of the truck we hear the unmistakable WOOP Woop of a police siren.    We see that the local constable has blocked us in with his police Jeep.    We think that this is just a friendly greeting as Peter knows just about everyone on the island.    It is not.   A very officious young constable, badge number 313, begins to ask very specific questions.   He asks if we had just purchased something from the establishment.  We acknowledge that we have.   He asks if it was alcoholic beverage.   We say yes.

About this point he begins to tell us that we are not in any trouble but that the vendor is.      He explains that this vendor has been warned multiple times not to be open on a national holiday.    He may be now facing a fine of $5000 for this infraction and it looks like the constable has him cold!  The officer takes our statements and then HE TAKES THE WINE!  as evidence!   He says that we are welcome to asked the vendor to return the money that was paid, but Peter refuses.    This is a guy that Peter has known for 30 years!    We really think that what was happening was that the constable was hiding around the corner waiting for someone to come out carrying a bottle of something!   He never would admit to that, claims he was just driving by.

On our way home I get a call from the officer asking if he can come by in the morning to take our statement.   I tell him that we are not going to be around tomorrow.     Once we do get home he calls me again to say that he is on his way to talk to us and get a written/signed statement.     This is beginning to remind me of Alice’s’ Restaurant.   He shows up about 15 minutes later after calling one more time to get directions.   (There is only one road on Galliot Cay.   There is only one yellow house, which is known as “The Yellow House”

When Constable Rolles arrives he takes Peters statement and Peter signs it.    We talk about all kinds of other things, like his family name and where he is from, alcohol laws, driving laws; Peter had just got a ticket from this guy the week before for doing 30 in a 20.    The normal rate of speed in a 20 is about 50.   Even the constable would acknowledge that.   And of course we get the history of Majority Rule Day.

I ask him about open liquor in a vehicle or in a public place and there is nothing wrong with that.   You just can’t be “under the influence”    An open bottle of Kalik in a vehicle is a pretty normal thing.    As a matter of fact when you purchase beer in any location the cashier will offer to open one before you go out the door.   Such service!

At this point we figure the matter is closed and the wheels of justice will begin to move and justice will be accomplished in somone’s eyes.

The next morning as we are setting out for our road trip down the island to the Blue Hole and other places, my phone rings again.   I now recognise Constable Rolls Number.   He asks us if we can come into the Police Station.    Chief wants to meet with Peter.     Peter knows this guy but has not seen him for a decade.   We arrive at a little group of buildings that include: The Anglican Rectory, the old police Station, A slightly newer police Station, Her Majestys Prison, the Department of Motor Vehicles and some other government offices.      Peter and I go into the Station house and Val and Christy go to see what the Jail looks like.

Jail where we thought Peter was going to end up
The newer police station

I am told to wait in the waiting area and Peter goes out back, where I hear the clang of a barred door shutting!  He is in there for quite a long time.   I talk with Constable Rolls and his sergeant.   He seems a bit nervous.

Finally I hear the sound of glass bottles and realize that the Chief is giving Peter back his wine.   All is well.  All was just a misunderstanding!   Even the speeding ticket has disappeared.

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Tropic of Cancer

 

Yesterday we did a road trip down long Island.  Along they way we crossed the “Tropic of Cancer”  You can click on the link to see why that is significant!  Let me back up a bit and cover the time from Black Point to where we are now and then say a bit about what is to come.  (I will do this over a couple of posts) You can check out our FB pages to see some pics and some of our experiences along the way.

After we left Black point we went out into the ocean through a cut in the islands.   The reason for this is that the inside gets very shallow and you have to travel significantly further to get to your destination.   I decided it would be good to break it up into a two day journey to Georgetown.  Upon reading the reviews and recommendations I settled on Lee Stocking Island as our stop over.   A short day sail with good protection.   We could wait there for a weather window if needed.

We set out the next morning and had an uneventful passage down the Exuma chain and made our entrance through Adderly Cut and found our way around to the anchorage in front of the old Caribbean Marine Research Center.   This is an abandoned station, that has been bought by a developer to make a high end marina someday.   We have noticed that there are loads of places like this where there has been a start and a stop and an abandonment of development.   Things happen on island time… or they just don’t happen at all.    If someone happens to tell you that they will be putting a roof on a new building next week, chances are they have been saying that for 10 years or so.     They might put a roof on it in the future or maybe not at all.

We spent the night and since the weather looked strongish the next morning we thought that we might spend one more day to let it settle some more as we did have to go out the cut into Exuma Sound again.   It was at about 11:00am that we discovered we had no more fresh water.   Not a problem I thought as I turned the valve for our 40 gallon reserve tank…… not a drop!    Still not sure what happened but I suspect that I did not have the valve fully off and over the last couple of months the contents of it drained into our other two tanks!  I used to regularly check it and top it off when I filled the other tanks, but it was never down, till today!

I knew that we were going to soon need water and also to top off on fuel and would like to do that before Georgetown, since there is no dock in GT that you can do those two jobs.    In GT you need to take the dinghy into the town dock with jugs and lug back water and fuel.    One would think that with 300-500 boats sitting in the harbour for months at a time, someone would have put in a proper fuel dock!

Our only option was a rather high end Marina about 13 miles away called the Marina at Emerald Bay.  It is a Sandals Resort.   The entrance is tricky, especially in East winds over 20.   It was blowing a solid 15.    I called them to ask about their entrance and they assured me it was passable.   You do have to radio ahead to make sure that the channel is clear of traffic as you approach because you can’t necessarily see vessels that are about to leave.

The most exciting part of the day was about to happen.    There is a phenomenon that some of you will be familiar with called “Wind against Current”   When this happens the waves get steeper, break and get higher too.    As we left Adderly Cut this was what we encountered.    Two knots of current flowing out vs. 15 knots of wind coming in.   The sailing instructions said to veer off the main channel as soon as you had cleared the submerged reefs at the entrance of the cut….. but not too soon.    Waves were breaking at about 8-10 feet and we were taking some water over the bow.   This is usually fine, since the boat is well designed to shed water and continue on.

When it is hot we open our hatches…….

Usually we close them before we head out….

After the first wave Val went below to secure the hatches but was unable to move toward the forward hatch due the the motion of the boat and a couple more waves soaked our sheets and mattress!

By the time we got things battened down we were out of the channel and on our way to the Marina.

At one point I saw three flying saucers… not UFOs but actual corelle saucers flying from the port side of the galley across to the navigation station.   Thankyou Dow Corning and NASA engineers for coming up with a material that can stand high impact and not break!

The entrance to the marina was as advertised.   We got in, took fuel and water and got out in less than an hour.   One of the good things was that because the water was metered and our tanks were completely emptied we got a measurement on our capacity for water.   We now know that the two side tanks are 25 gallons  and the forward one is 40.    I had always thought it was more than that and wondered if because of the position of the tanks they were never emptied.    Now I know.    12 gallons of fuel and 90 gallons of water cost $103.    Now to Georgetown.

The timing was tight.    I did not want to be doing the tricky dogleg route into Elizabeth harbour in less than ideal light, even along the deep water route.     We still had 15 knots on the beam so we would be able to make it before sun set.

Georgetown and Elizabeth Harbour, for most people that go there, is the “end of the rainbow” ;  It is the pot of gold and the final destination.    Each year yachting snowbirds sail toward Georgetown, drop the hook and don’t go any further for 2-3 months.   There is a very organized community there that can fulfil every interest.

We entered the harbour and found a spot right in front of Chat N Chil and dropped the hook.   Within the next few minutes we heard a chorus of Conch shells being blown to signal the setting of the Sun!    We have arrived!

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Chugging Along

Happy New Year to you all! 🎉 It’s hard to believe that we have said goodbye to another year each of us getting older and maybe a little wiser. Over the holidays we were able to either talk of video chat with all our kids and with RuthAnne. For me it was extremely hard not to be celebrating with them and told Eric (‘that won’t happen again’). In the same breath I so appreciated celebrating with the congregation in Bimini. It was a blessing, a joy and a sense of rejoicing with people from a different culture and a bit of a different experience tradition express their love and joy in Jesus. What a gift.

We were 10 days in Bimini because of the back to back storms, again I am sure we’ve dragged wind and snotty weather with us, for those of you who are battling the snow and cold our burdens are nothing to what you have been contending with. I’ll help shovel next winter!

So we have sailed down to the southern part of the Bahamas and it is feeling more tropical 🌴 everyday. Eric has described the different islands that we have visited so far and we are amazed at how uninhabited the Bahamas are. The population for this country is around 400,000, so lots of empty islands with white sandy beaches.

Today we arrived in Black Point and by the information we have it is known as a great place to stop, to do your laundry, get a few groceries, get your hair cut if you would like. Da Mail boat came in today so we will go back tomorrow and get some fresh Veggies and maybe some fruit. A can of beans was $3.00 at one store, yikes! So we were wandering around the store and then I found out that tomorrow there would be fresh stuff so I asked when tomorrow morning would she be open and she said “in the morning”, there you go we are officially on island time. 😂.

Depending on weather we expect to be in Georgetown at the first of next week, how’s that for island time! Really we pray all is well with you and look forward to seeing you in a few more months. Blessings.

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Two Days for West Cove

Sunset in West Bay
This is Aviva. It was anchored beside us when we were in New York. I talked with one of the guests who was heading out for some kind of business meeting. He said that they were heading to the Bahamas as well. He mentioned that they usually don’t go into Nassau but rather a super yacht in Albany. Aviva is anchored just outside Albany now. It is actually so big that they have to take one of their Dinghys in to visit the Marina!

We have crossed the Bank and the Tongue and arrived at New Providence Island.    We had no desire to go into the overly touristy and expensive Nassau, so we opted for a night stop at a protective cove on the west end of the Island.   The plan was to sleep and then head for the Exumas.   Plans change and there does not seem to be a weather prediction service that is reliable.    We set out at dawn with moderate Easterlies as predicted.      I noticed that the engine Temperature was running too high.   Since we were only in about 12 feet of water we anchored to investigate.    The clouds closed in, the wind began to blow and it also rained.    I dove over the side to check the intake -ok.   Then I pulled the strainer-ok.  I opened the water pump to check the impellor-ok.  Put everything back together and it seemed to be ok.    It could be that something had fowled the intake and then washed away.    Temp was back down to normal.    The problem was we had lost a lot of time and now the wind had piped up.   There was no way we could make Highbourn Cay before dark, so we returned to West Bay.

I began to read up about local attractions as I had not planned a visit to explore. Take a look at what I found in the link below.

 

Check it out…Flipper and Jaws!

 

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Bimini Christmas Experience Part 2

During the service Christmas Eve, an older man got up to read the Old Testament Lesson.   You would recognize it; from Isaiah 9 “for unto us a child is born”   It was read with a deep conviction and drama; so much so that you would think that the author himself was rehearsing it.   As we passed the peace later in the service I spoke to the man and told him what a blessing it was for us to hear him read.   I said that we had sailed down from Canada.  He said; That is good.   I build boats.  I told him that I was an amature boat builder as well.   After the service Ansil invited me to come to his Boat Shop.   I protested and said; but tomorrow is Christmas day.    He assured me that he would be there from around 9 to 4.   That is his routine, Christmas or not.

I spoke to him again at the fellowship time, just to make sure and then said that I would be over in the morning.

Ansil Saunders Boat Shop

He had given me the instructions that his boat shop was north of the power plant, down by the basket ball court, right out on the water.   I found it easily.   Ansil comes from 5 generations of Boat Builders and is the last boat builder on Bimini.  He has not been able to find an apprentice.   He says that they might acquire the skills, but they don’t have the heart and passion for it and quit after a short while saying it it two hard.

Boat building for Ansil has really just been a part time thing for him.   His real passion is Bone Fish.  You have to hunt them and stalk them like deer he says.   You must see them first and cast the bait just in front of them or else you will spook them and they run.   He built a boat for himself so that he could become the best bone fish guide in the area, and indeed he has been dubbed “Bone Fish Legend”

Indeed he did become that and lead a client to catch the biggest bone fish ever.   Still unsurpassed.   This in my mind, though a great story was not what impressed me the most.  It is well known that Martin Luther King used to come to Bimini to write his speeches.    Ansil was asked to take Dr. King to as secluded place so that he could write (as it turned out, his last speech)   I will not try to describe this myself but refer you on to some videos that I have also posted on FB    The one by the fishing show I think gives one of the best accounts of this relationship and encounter.

With regard to his boat building he designed and built the perfect boat for bone fishing and had build and sold a good many of these at florida boat shows.   He has one order to go and also he needs to repair his own.  It came to an untimely end as he was navigating a canal at speed and hit a rock or concrete block that had been dumped in the waterway.    It holed the boat and sunk her.   She rolled over under the weight of the engine and tore her transoom off.   The boat sits in his shop now awaiting some materials.    He has a sale for her, but must repair her and likely replace her engine.   I will post below some other interviews with Ansil.   He told me many other things about the history of Bimini.  About Hemingway, Shark research, Conch, the Sport Fishing industry and family.     And as it turns out Ashley (the Dolphin house) is his brother!   He has another brother Tommy who makes jewelry.   Three brothers whose ancestors arrived centuries before from Scotland and married Bahamian women.

 

 

 

For more about Ansil Saunders look in youtube

 

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Bimini Christmas Experience Part 1

Most blogs that I have read about doing what we are doing talk about crossing from Miami, arriving at Bimini, spending the night or maybe one day and then pressing on across the bank to Nassau and Eluthera  and the Exumas.   We have been totally blessed by spending a week or a bit more here.   We left Miami just before a strong wind from the SW was due to blow.   The predictions showed it to be up to 50 Knots.    Certainly a good protected harbor would be required.   In talking with a resident of Cat Cay days later, he remarked that it was the strongest wind outside of a full hurricane that he had experienced in more than 10 years.   We were very glad to have crossed and tucked into Bimini Sands marina.    Bimini Sands Resort/Marina is on the South Island.   Very quiet, mostly residential.   The north Island has all the party life, stores, infrastructure etc.   We like the South Island for its peace and solitude.

So, because of the wind storm , which lasted three days and then Christmas, we found ourselves committed to at least a week.   There could be worse places to be stuck.   On the first day after we arrived we headed over to the North Island and Alice Town to buy a SIM card for the Phone.   We decided also to do a bit of a walking tour and visit the museum.  Val has written about that already.   We saw a hot-dog vendor and decided to get something to eat.   The young lady who ran this was quick to invite us to Church on Sunday and it turned out to be the Anglican Parish for Bimini.   We knew that we would be staying on through Christmas as well, so it was decided.    She described the Christmas Eve service, starting at 11:00 with a preceding Carol Sing and followed by a breakfast/midnight fellowship.   I have reported in our FB posts about our Sunday Experience please check them out.   Take a look at Val’s post also about Ashley Saunders, and the Dolphin House, it is all part of the bigger story!

Rev. Colin Saunders (Saunders is a very common name) was born on the island, moved to other islands as his father moved with Customs and Emigration to further his career.    He studied theology at Huron College in London Ontario and after ordination was working in the Capitol region of Nassau doing a Church plant.   One day about three years ago he was invited back to his boyhood home of Bimini to attend the Ordination Service of the new Baptist Pastor.   Upon hearing that he would be in town and that his old home church was with out a pastor that Sunday he was called upon to fill in.    His heart was stirred as he took the service and discerned that all things were not quite as he had remembered.  When he returned to Nassau he spoke to his bishop and mentioned if there was ever a vacancy at his old home church, he would like to be considered.   He was appointed Rector within the year.   Despite the looming knowledge that a prophet was not always welcome in his home town, he began his ministry.

We began Christmas eve by taking the boat down the coast about 5 miles with the hope to dive on a wreck.  When we got there we found that the conditions were not favorable and we would have to look at this another time.   We found a quiet spot in about 15 feet just of the marina on our return to anchor the boat and jumped in to do my first “snorkel inspection” of the anchor in the crystal clear water of the Bahamian Bank.   What was really interesting was that you really did not even have to get into the water to see what the anchor was doing.   I could watch it decent to the bottom, tip over and dig in, all from the deck of the boat.  Even when I had let out 3:1 rode, I could still see the anchor burying itself.    I swam on it anyway and then turned and looked at the boat floating, as if in air, and could see well beyond it as well!

 

When we got back to the harbor I  thought it would be good to see about Coconuts.    I had asked the marina manager if it was ok to take one.   He wondered why I might want to do so and said go ahead.   I found a tree with some large ones that seemed ready and right there in the brush near by was a 15 foot piece of aluminum structural component that was just perfect for knocking those nuts out of the tree.  Two swipes and two were on the ground.  I found a YouTube later on that showed a guy shucking a coconut in 6 seconds.   He did about 1000 a day.    My first attempt was about an hour!  Knowing what I know now about these beasts, I think I can best that time for the next one.  Shucking is only the first part.   Now you have to get the water out, crack it and get the meat out, but most of us have done that before.

We made a few phone/video calls to family while we waited for night fall.  This has been one of the most difficult things: to be physically away from family during the holiday.    It is nice to have the technology to talk and text and post to one another, but nothing can replace the times of visiting from house to house and hosting grand feasts.    I don’t recommend being away for Christmas, it is a lonely experience.

This is the ferry dock on South Bimini looking to the North Island. You can see it approaching.

It might take up to an hour to get to church so we set out at about 9:40 pm, heading for at 10:45 pm Carol sing and an 11:00 pm service.    We were early as the ferry was just arriving as we got to the dock.

Alice Town is like any other place with the good the bad the beautiful and the ugly.   We have walked through the town several times now and are very aware of the more sketchy parts and the spirit that seems to go along with them.  There is one particular Tiki bar in the middle of town that plays loud music seemingly 24 hours a day, whether there are customers there or not.    Sunday morning it was blaring out music at about 8:30 in the morning!

That part of town has a certain darkness to it.   Lots of little bars that are dark on the inside along side mini casinos, with no windows.   We were also seeing people young an old driving around in golf carts with open beer.   One telling sign was the fact that when you are in the liquor store there is a bottle opener beside the cash!    In speaking with Pastor Colin later on he said that there are laws but they are largely ignored because of the rich tourists and not wanting to offend them.   What has happened is that the locals now take it as a given and walk around with open drink all the time.    It was perfectly normal to see a young man or young woman at 9:00am on Sunday morning walking or driving down the main road with a half consumed beer.

As I had mentioned in my FB post about sunday church, it was not that well attended, but what it lacked in numbers was more than offset by the quality and engagement in worship.    We arrived plenty early (I think we were the first ones)   We watched as people began to arrive.   Those leading the service, Choir members, Lay-readers, Servers etc.    I think that there were only about a dozen of us in the pews when the Choir leader stood and announced that it was time to begin singing carols.    I though to my self: this is going to be a disaster, there are not enough people here.    To my surprise as he lifted up his voice, the congregation responded and filled in every harmony with the richness of any trained choir that I have ever heard…. and the choir largely had not arrived!    Carol after carol was sung and more people arrived.    The rest of the Choir, the organist and more of the congregation.   By then end we were enveloped in a full sound of glory in the highest.   The service was now ready to begin.

As I described in an earlier post the style of service is very formal and Anglo-Catholic.  Complete with everything you can imagine from this tradition.  Incense, Sanctus Bells, as many as a dozen people assisting in some capacity with the service, candles, full liturgy.   What set it apart in my mind was that there was an welcoming openness for the informal as well, and the moving and filling  of the holy Spirit.  This service would normally have taken about an hour in Canada, was just over two hours here in the Bahamas.    Every symbol, action and word was open and available for the fullness of the glory of God to inhabit it.

We began with the blessing of the cradle, complete with procession, incense and singing.  Then it was on to the opening carol and so on.   Everything in the liturgy was sung with depth, and conviction.  My though as we were singing the great Carols of the Nativity was this:   This is how I have always imagined these songs to be sung.   The only thing that came close in my experience, were the times that the clergy of my diocese got together for conference or retreat and we would sing well known hymns together.   This was always good.   Everyone singing songs they know well.    But alas this experience has been eclipsed by the humble ordinary people of a small island in the Bahamas.

After the service we went over to the hall for “All kinds of Fellowship”    I checked with Colin the Rector to see if there were others there from South Bimini so that we could be guaranteed a way back to Tevah.   I suspected that the Ferry would stop running around midnight.    In fact by the time I asked, the Ferry had already been put away for the night.    We were glad to find a couple that could transport us back to the ferry landing.   They had a small boat.

The fellowship went on past 02:00 am complete with Johnny cake, hominy, fish and chicken boiled  in gravy, coffee, tea, wine, rum, beer, eggnog.   Thanks to the kindness of a couple we were introduced to we got back to the boat just before 3:00 am

Christmas in the Bahamas!

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