Friday April 26, 2013
If I’m learning one thing about Great Inagua so far, it’s that it’s the best island in the Bahamas that we’ve visited so far, with the absolute worst anchorage. What it has going for it with the friendliest people ever (No, I’m not kidding. They really are the friendliest people ever.), a large enough town to make you think you’re on more than just a small island, and even a Morton Salt factory with a US address that, should you be here long enough, they’ll even send anything you need to you even though you’re just a traveler and not a resident. But the anchorage. Oh my god, the anchorage. As I said, there is no harbor here. Just a shallow enough area to drop hook in, right next to the hundred foot depths you just came in from. And what this means for us is no protection from the huge swells that wrap around the side of the island. I thought we had it bad in the Jumentos, but this is much much worse. So bad that we will avoid being off the boat for a good part of the day just so we don’t have to suffer the constant rocking. It feels just like we’re on passage, except more maddening because being at anchor is supposed to be your safe haven from being at sea. If we planned on being here an extended period of time we’d probably move up to the much calmer Man of War Bay, but that would include a couple mile walk into town each day and for right now we’ll just suffer the rocking at night and get our butts into town for the good part of the day.
This evening when we retired back to the boat and were working on any solution to keep it still, Matt actually was able to fix it a little bit by swinging our boom to one side and dropping our drogue into the water to cease a little bit of the swinging, we got a call on the radio from Stephanie who was in town and wanted to know if we’d like to come out to a lemonade stand they had visited the day before and made friends with a few of the locals. I had been laying on the settee while starting a movie, the low sun blazing through the port and blinding me every few seconds as we still rocked back and forth, so yes, I was eager to get back off the boat and visit a lemonade stand. She mentioned we might want to pack our own little cooler, so I threw a few single serve wines plus a beer and a dark & stormy into my purse sized Coleman. Getting a little lost on the way to the street corner we were given (I’m telling you, this place is huge compared to our last few stops), we finally came upon a white tent with golf carts parked in front and Brian and Stephanie seated next to them in plastic chairs. Right away we were introduced to Bo, a native of the island who moved to California and would come back to the island for her summers. She looked like a California girl though and through, bright blonde highlights and an electric white smile to match. She had a vivacious personality that was instantly infectious, and even though we were just meeting her she felt like the old friend you could lose touch with for years and pick back up right where you left off.
Working the lemonade stand with her was her sister Shay, who spent her time off the island living in Charleston, but was working her way to starting her own restaurant on the island. Quickly we were offered a seat on the back of one of the golf carts while stainless steel lids on the stand began to open and we were asked what we’d like to eat. We both chose hot dogs which came with all the fixings and tasted just as good as they looked after Shay had presented them in a four star manner with turning the toppings into a beautiful design on the top. It wasn’t long before more and more people started arriving at the stand, all family of Bo’s, and all out to celebrate her birthday. We were introduced to cousin after cousin after cousin, and every one of them welcomed us into the group as if we were one of their own. Each new group listened intently as we told our stories of how we got there and what our grand plans were.
In return they each shared stories of growing up on the island and all the activities this close knit family participated in such as a cowboy themed party ‘out in the bush’ complete with a cowboy hat and and a set of cowboy boots for each person that joined. We were all included into the group so quickly that we were invited to a camping festival with the family starting the next day and ending three days later. It was to be an extreme ‘you only eat what you catch’ kind of gathering, but we were regaled with stories of the men catching goats and hogs on previous trips and it sounded as if no one ever went hungry. Previous gatherings like this, we were told, included bonfires that lasted until dawn and was something that we could not miss out on. Unfortunately for us, we live by the weather, and right in the middle of that camping trip was a window for us to make it through the Windward Passage. It was a sad thing to turn down because if we were already having this much fun at a lemonade stand on the side of the road, I can only imagine the kind of stories a three day outing in the bush would produce.
As with all birthdays, there was a big cake presented to Bo and we tried, after three attempts, to get everyone on cue for a couple verses of ‘Happy Birthday’. The cake was two layers and covered in blue frosting. We were told by Bo and one of her cousins that they had a tradition in the family of giving the girls blue cakes, and giving pink cakes to the men. This was a long lived joke because they said in their family it was always the women who went out and made a living while the men stayed home with the children. Everyone was cut a slice and we sat around enjoying the concoction made by Bo’s beau. Long after the sun went down and the street lights came on, we sat out telling and listening to stories until the bugs were making it too unbearable to continue. We also had an early morning planned, a trip into the national park to see flamingos, and none of us wanted to be asleep through any of it. We went through and gave hugs to our new foster family members before setting off in the dark back to the dinghy. I can’t tell you how well this island and it’s people have been treating us so far. If we didn’t have such a strong craving to see lush green mountains, I could see us staying here for much much longer. Well, after moving the boat up to Man of War Bay.