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.
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.
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.
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
This entry may be a little longer than usual so a cup of cheer may be in order. Our crossing was quite uneventful considering all that could have gone wrong. We got up at 4 am (ridiculous, I know 😬) and we weren’t heading into the night by 4:30am. What we saw was lots of water, obviously, and lots of flying fish. At first I thought they were some type of flying bugs, they are tiny, white and they don’t just jump out of the water but can keep going for quite a long way before they head back into the ocean. We arrived into the harbour of Bimini Sands Marina and Resort around 12:30. As you are coming into the banks of Bimini the water turns that beautiful aqua colour that you see in travel magazines and it is breathtaking. So we tied up and have rented a slip for a week at a whopping cost of $100 for the week. Looking at the weather we could see a nasty storm coming for the next two days. (I told a friend in Florida that I’m sure we tied a cold front to the stern of the boat and brought it every km of the way with us). We seem to arrive and it is a nice enough day to take off your coat and enjoy the ☀️ then the coat has to go back on the next day.
We are on the South Bimini Island so have to take a ferry over to the North Bimini Island, both islands are tiny they are the smallest within the 700 islands of the Bahamas archipelagos. This island is very quiet compared to the Northern island. On the resort it has the laundry, (sketchy) wifi, showers, 2 pools and of course the beach. So the first day we were here we went to both pools with no one else in them. I think that will change the day after Christmas. They say this is the quiet week with everything ramping up for the next 3-4 months, so we will enjoy the calm before the storm.
Speaking of storm we were hit with a whale of a storm with winds up to 100 km/hr. We felt we were helping our son in law Justin to break in a horse! Eric adjusted the ropes several times (5 of them) trying to snug up the boat but just the way the wind, waves and how the tiny little harbour is we had more than 24 hours of high winds. It is still rocking and rolling a bit here but certainly has calmed down a lot. I told you Susan C we bring the cold and winds with us. 😁
So our adventures: as we go out and about we have gotten another phone card Bahamian. When we sent out the text to our kids, Kait said that’s phone number 4! Yup.🙄 But with the technology we are able to keep in touch. Thank you Lord.
Bimini’s claim to fame is Ernest Hemingway loved living here for a few years and wrote a few books while he was here as well he loved the fishing. The other person who loved to come here was Martin Luther King Jr. It was a place of rest as well as a place where it is said he wrote his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace prize that he received in 1967, I think
The character of the day is a guy called Ashley aka Dolphin Man owner of Dolphin House. Today we took a second trip to the North island and were told we had to go see the Dolphin House as a touristy trip. So we did. The island is about as wide as a football field with the geography which has a bit of a little hill down the centre and the Dolphin House is at the top of the hill. As we arrive Ashley is outside and looks like a Jamaican man with The dreads and all. As soon as he started talking I wanted to head down the hill but you know Eric he won’t walk away, so we had to go on this tour. Ashley told us how the dolphins had changed his life and he was spending the rest of his life telling people about them. SO I thought we were going to learn about the life, eco system, needs etc of the dolphin. I was thinking a biology/oceanic lesson but nope it was an artistic lauding of dolphins tiled all over the walls inside and out, (over 50 drawings/ceramic tiles) thus Dolphin House! Most of the house is made out of things that he has been able to find on the beaches or anywhere else he can scrounge, including conch shells, coral rock limestone, ceramic tiles and other building materials. He has built a house that will stand against any hurricane of which it has weathered 7 if I am correct. We had the tour and had a unbelievable view of both sides of the island standing in one spot. So I walked away pondering a couple of things, hearing about the Dolphin House I had one expectation but experienced something totally different of which I really appreciated. The other is I have such a small window of giving people a chance and yet I am the one who misses the unexpected, the out of the ordinary and maybe I need to work at hearing the full story.
We have found a church that we will go to tomorrow and to the Christmas Eve service. We will write to you again soon.
It is Saturday of week 3! This past week was more than a bit challenging for me. When we were in New Bedford visiting with the Lochs our intention was to sail to Block Island on Monday. As you read from Eric, that did not happen! We were holed up for 3 days and nights in Saconett Harbour,RI. There was nothing we could do and nowhere we could go! The boat rocked and bucked like an unbroken horse. I entertained the thought of taking gravol just to survive!
On Wednesday, I told Eric we needed to leave and at least try to go to the next port. We were getting low on all provisions and the Captain had already decided, without my input,that indeed we need to split 😬. I had bought UHT milk that doesn’t need to be refrigerated until it’s opened,for emergencies, I had that on board in case we were stuck like we were and we used most of that up as well. We were out of bread, eggs, and all kinds of other basics. Eric was able to make the morning coffee and keep the Wench happy with the last of the milk( sort of)🙄.
We sailed a short sail to Newport RI, this sail again was in search of the holy grail called the sun and saw it once we moored up. It was a rough sail (what’s new🙄) but as we entered there was Mr Sun. He has kept hidden the entire 3 weeks, I’ve got to have a heart to heart with him. We need to get on a better relationship because right now I have felt we have a legal separation 😩 and that is not what I had planned on this adventure. We went to shore and got a hamburger for lunch that was beyond delicious and groceries.
Eric felt the next day would be a good sail to Mystic Connecticut. Well the Galley Wench begs to differ. It was cold! My layers were an undershirt that my mother in law had given to me which I thought would be good for when I visited Kait in SK in November! Ha,I swear I have worn it 18 of the 21 days that we have been on this journey. I also had a long sleeve tshirt over that, a winter coat with the beloved rain coat that we bought in Portland over everything and I was STILL a bit chilled but semi-comfy. The sail to Mystic was a heavy rain, cold and brisk winds, so halfway to our destination I felt it was time to break the news to the Captain that this journey will be a one of. If ever he thought he might want to this again he should recruit a more willing crew since this old babe would not be on board. It was acknowledged by my dear Captain.
We arrived in Mystic on Friday afternoon and today we were tourists on Saturday. It was a much needed mental rest. We are anchored in a community dedicated to the whaling, sailing and shipbuilding community. Part of our mooring fees gave us 2 passes to the community that can be compared to Kings Landing of the sailing world. Our feet are tired but our Spirit rested and regenerated. Before anything opened we had a shower, did laundry and visited two consignment stores. One was a clothes consignment store, since Eric ripped a pair of his pants on our way here and a marine consignment store where he got a new bilge pump for a great price.
Mentally, emotionally and spiritually it was a great end to a trying week. The Lord has challenged me to rest in Him and not anticipate what might be. I have read how Josiah the child King just trusted that the God of Israel would indeed walk with him and reveal Himself and lead him to be a good king. For me not taking charge is and has always been a difficult walk. I do desire to lay down everything and to be at peace and content with what He has for me. Now some of family have a bet that I will not last 6-8 weeks! In the natural I would agree and If I do go beyond that it will be all to whatever God is doing within me. 🤣
Love you all and am sure this journey has more great stories and adventures in store. Blessings and talk to you soon.