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.
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.
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.
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.
So after a 3 hour sail in windy choppy swelly water we have arrived in one of the prestigious sailing ports on this coast. We passed 2 12 meter yachts as we entered the inner Harbor, and as we walked up the hill to the grocerie store we saw the Church where JFK was married. They were selling tickets on re-enactment displays and live music to relive the Camelot era event. Hopefully tomorrow the Small Craft Advisory will be down and we can make the run to Mystic.
We were up and underway by 0600 this morning to make the jump to Northeast Harbor. Arrived at about 15:30. Couldn’t eat much because of the confused state of the seas after the blow yesterday. Went through one patch where the swell was 20’! Time to ditch some garbage, get fuel, do the laundry, dine on Main Street and take some hot showers. I’ll post some town pics later tonight. We have good internet too!
We ate at the Colonels Restaurant last night after we did our Laundry and had showers were the floor was not moving. Thursday we will take the free LLBean bus into Bar Harbor to get some supplies.
For the last several days we have been on the boat making some final adjustments. Our recut mattress installed. The ticking is almost ready to reinstall. We have been making lists of things to remove and things to bring aboard.
Danny and Jenny (Val’s Sister ) joins us for 24 hours as we sailed up into Grand Lake and then returned them to Gagetown.
We sailed Thursday afternoon after returning from a funeral in Fredericton, to Purdys point. The next day we went to Gagetown, topped off with fuel and got a some delicious pastries and the shop next to the Old Boot. At about 5:30 we got underway with our guests and arrived in Douglas Harbour just before sunset. The next day we went out to the “Bar” to have lunch. I was going to change the zinc but the wind was beginning to fill in so we went sailing instead. Danny experienced some of the finer points of sailing on the wind, tacking, reefing and a great beam reach back to DH, he also tried out Val’s personal watercraft (escape pod) to investigate some movement is the reeds. Turns out it was just a rock.
Jenny prepared an amazing supper with shrimp on sticks and a salad made with tomatoes, cheese, cucumbers.
We had intended to take this picture before we ate but forgot and had to put this plate together from what was left.
Anchored in Mount Creek now writing this blog and waiting for the coffee.