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.
We are now in Miami getting ready to make the sail to Bimini, Bahamas. It’s hard to believe after 3&½ months we are this close. We were ready to sit in Miami for ‘the perfect weather window ‘ which can take days or weeks but nope not us! We got into Miami sailing past 6 cruise boats and lots of other activity at lunch time. We went ashore and got a very large grocery order, came back and then headed off to the jump off point to the Bahamas, called No Name Harbour.
Looking back over our US leg of the sail we have met great people and learned so much about local areas, towns and US history. It has been great. I am still a landlubber and not a sailor. I am pretty sure this is a one of adventure. I miss my family, children, in-laws and friends. I love to drive, I love to take my dog for hikes, I love worshipping with my church community and playing in the band, I love celebrating Christmas and all its traditions with my family and friends. This is a once in a lifetime experience and I do appreciate the opportunity.
I guess we’ll see if the Bahamas can turn this attitude around. Otherwise I pray you are enjoying this blog and my honest take on the days. We are not sure when we will be able to post a new report but hopefully soon. Thinking of you all as we get closer to Christmas.
On Monday afternoon we arrived in Vero Beach where we had arranged to connect with a cousin of mine who I hadn’t seen in decades. Stan is my first cousin on my Dad’s side of the family. On that side of the family, touchy feely, family gatherings were not part of their DNA Stan is 6 years younger than me and with all that said I never really had ever had a long conversation with him and did not really know him nor his wife Susan.
We arrived I would say, looking and smelling like pirates (so I wasn’t holding out that a good first impression was not to be had). We had laundry and shopping needs and I was feeling I was going to be pushing them in their invitation to visit.
Well I was so wrong, Susan and Stan are gifted in hospitality! They could not have made us feel more welcomed and at home. They made sure we were looked after beyond our wildest expectations. They toured us around the area, drove us all over Vero Beach to get our groceries, propane, oil for the boat plus other errands and meeting our every need or want including taking us out to lunch down by the beach for a mahi mahi sandwich which was absolutely delicious, what a treat!❤️
This morning they joined us sailing down the ICW from Vero Beach to Fort Pierce which was a couple hours of sailing. I think it was our turn to give them a bit of a treat. They experienced true sailing with a little rain and a little sun, the dolphins and manatees making an appearance for our joy and entertainment.
I know that social media can be truly scary with bullying, creeping and all other negative things but I want to recognize that because of Facebook Stan and I were able to connect and arrange this sweet 3 days of sharing stories and enjoying one another, I think I would have sailed on by if we had not interacted first on Facebook so I am grateful. Eric and I both feel that we have increased our family and established new friendships that is just beginning.
Stan and Susan we cannot thank you enough for your huge heart and fantastic sense of humour, we love you and can’t wait until we return.
We are stopped for a few days at Vero Beach to do provisioning. Val has a 1st Cousin there. Here is a phone number update. Val’s number is changed to an international one as we do the crossing. We will be getting a Bahamas number when we check in.
By Val. On Dec 1 we left Charleston SC with the goal to get to Florida as fast as we can go, (which isn’t very fast on a sailboat)😬We entered Florida several days ago and can now say we are feeling more comfy. The nights are no longer dropping down to 2C and we don’t need to turn the heater on to warm us up to start the day. Since we left Charleston we have stopped only to get fuel and a few groceries otherwise we have been pushing to get south. So long days then anchor, sleep and do it again the next day.
We did take an afternoon and walked around the beautiful and historic St Augustine. Wow what can I say! As you enter into the harbour you feel like you are sailing into a European city. The architecture is Spanish with a huge fortress to welcome you as you come in. Castillo de San Marcos has been there for over 300 years beginning in the 1600’s, built by the Spanish to claim a little of the New World. One Ponce de Leon and his navigators came to understand the Gulf Stream and used it to travel back and forth to Spain. They would follow the Gulf Stream to South America, travel north to Florida and follow the Gulf Stream back to Spain, amazing! This route made Spain a very prosperous country in the 1600-1800’s where it cedes Florida to the US after the Civil War .
The fortress was never defeated unless changing hands in peaceful/treaty exchanges. The city hall is gorgeous with very Spanish architecture and I’m sorry that I didn’t stop and take a pictures all around me. The side streets are those narrow alley like walkways with all kinds of shops. It was a short but very sweet visit and we would like to stop in on our return voyage.
The weather has risen incrementally as we motor down the coast. Today (Sunday) it is poring rain out. The Captain is drenched but the Wench is dry 😬☔️. Tomorrow we will be in Vero Beach for a few days. I have a cousin whom we will visit and I’m getting very excited! I’m looking forward to catching up on life since I’ve not really spent anytime with him and get to meet his wife Susan. They have graciously opened their home up to us so we will stop and do laundry, get groceries and I will have a glorious bath. The shower cleans me bit oh I love to relax in a tub so that is one thing that I am looking forward to.
It has been a week of pushing hard to get closer to the ever elusive sweet weather and we both are happy to say 3 months later we are beginning to feel we can put on a pair of shorts very soon.
To all of you suffering through the cold, wind and snow I’m sorry but winter sports are great fun we will just miss them this year. Love to you all.
This blog is for all those sailors in the Saint John area that are wondering what it is like to travel the Intercoastal Waterway. I will frame it in comparison to travels along the Saint John River.
A day on the ICW is like leaving Saint John and traveling to Gagetown…. every day for 5 days in a row.
It would also be like going through the entrance to Grand lake, washdamoak and Bellisle all in a row… for 8 hours, including going over the flats near Shampers, with 1 foot under the keel.
It might be like traveling through grand lake and then going up the Salmon to Chipman, and then back again.
Some parts, like the “Great Dismal Swamp” would be like going along Manawagonish road, as if it was a canal. … for two days. The trees in many places almost touch over you….. and … there might be alligators.
Then you anchor and have supper and get up at 0600 and do it all again! After about a week you pull into a marina and pay your $1.50 to $3.00 per foot and have a chance to take a long shower, have a courtesy car, see some sights, have a meal out, do some shopping and then return to 5 or so more days as above.
The history that you will see and experience will rewrite so much of what you were told in school. We have spend hours in museums and reading monuments and talking to locals. There is something to learn at every stop along the way.
If you have ever dreamed about doing this… go for it!
To all who have continually encouraged me on whenever I have whined about the weather thanks but nothing has changed. ❄️🤔We are closing in on the Florida border, if all goes well it will be a days sail Thursday). Now I know we are not experiencing the (-)Degree weather but we are oh so close to the 0C that is considered the NB norm for the first of December. This morning we awoke to a 3C frosty cold morning. Now I am sticking with the Galley Wench role therefore not sitting out in the cold pushing the boat onward south. So, I gave Eric my scarf to wear and both of us wished we had hats!!!!! We have decided not to stop and visit but just go until we hit the pursued place of promised heat.
As I have been more ‘inside’ I have been trying to stay on track for Advent readings and for the past few days one of the reoccurring readings has been Psalm 90. In this psalm we see that God has been, is and will be around from the birth of the world to the end, that a day is a thousand years to Him,that he sees and knows everything about me including my secret sins, and He has never promised life to be easy. Yet still in His all knowing He has an unfailing love for us, for me, and that in the midst of my life he can walk with me and I can shout with joy and be glad all of my days.
This Christmas season will be very different for Eric and I. No family events, no bustling around attending events, preparing for services, no shopping so we are able to absorb the gift of the season. We are grateful for our gift of time to do this adventure, for our kids, family and our love for Jesus.
As you can see not much to report on regarding landmarks and places but much more on on the bigger things in life. Blessings everyone
I had a moment this morning as we were cruising down the Beaufort river and we found our selves listening and singing along to Christmas carols..
We did not bring much of anything for decorations with us but do hope to get a few when we stop in Vero Beach. We do have a very simple manger scene that is now adorning the magazine rack next to Val’s guitar.
We are now seeing white sand beaches, Palm trees and of course pelicans.. and listening to Christmas carols!
One of the things that we have started to do is to watch some of those Christmas movies the one that we watched the night we grounded was called something like “Letter to Santa” These are always love stories of some kind, but do put you into the reason for the season. We will try to watch a number of those, when we have a good Verizon signal. That one was watched with my cell phone hoisted up the mast!
The other thing that came our way was the song that Stephanie just released. Check out her FB or Blog and have a free listen. That helped.