Diary of A Mad Galley Wench - May 1992

by Terri Robbins

(This is the continuation of Ms. Robbins 6 Month diary. The first part was published in our July 1995 issue)

May 1, 1992

Well, guess what! It's been almost a WEEK and we have not had a gale or a thunderstorm! As a matter of fact, it's been the most gorgeous weather I have seen yet! I am always up before dawn, and Bart (our macaw) and I have our coffee in the cockpit watching the sunrise, which is almost always a spectacular peach color and usually has fine wispy clouds shrouding it. The water is so calm and clear. An occasional sea turtle will poke his head up and look at us. The gulls aren't even awake yet! Gosh, it's like I'm the only one alive at times. I usually watch as fellow boaters, one by one, come out from their cabins and begin the days routine. Something special about this time of day. I feel cheated if I miss my sunrise!

I am still awed by the quality folks we have met on this absolutely incredible and unpredictable journey. As I said, everyone sort of watches out for everyone else. The camaraderie is tight. For those of us without refrigeration, such little things as the opening of a jar of mayonnaise can become a highlight of the day, or a quart of milk, because you, of course, share it. There is virtually NO crime here. I've never seen anything like it! You can order groceries off the VHF radio to be delivered to the closest dock to you (free of charge), but there are no "scheduled" deliveries. If they happen to be in your area they simply leave the goods (usually cases and large quantities) near a dock for you to pick up when you go to shore. They write your name on it, and we have yet have anyone disturb our goods. It's pretty much "honor system". It's incredible! I've never experienced such trust and honesty among people. The world needs more of it. It's very refreshing! We can order fresh delicious Abaco baked bread from a tiny little local bakery, "Albury's", by placing your order via VHF, and if she closes before you are able to get there, she sets it on the porch with your name on it. You pay later. Kinda gives you a warmth that is hard to describe.

We have begun to spot vessels come in that we met in our travels down the ICW. At this particular harbour we have developed quite a "fleet" of friends we knew from before. One vessel pulled in last night, "Mouvin On" that we had sort of teamed up with in West Palm Beach. They were to leave to jump to "Memory Rock" with us (I'll never forget that damned rock!), but they had the sense to turn back and wait (wise decision)!

There is no storm keeping me awake tonight (believe it or not!), but I am simply excited because we are going in on a rental "car" tomorrow with Jeff and Liz from "Sea Lure" to tour Great Abaco Island for the day. We'll be able to see the country-side from other than a boaters standpoint. The "roads" (?)(?) are VERY bad here, and you really need a truck. We couldn't find one, but did, however, find a 1979 Chevy stationwagon (TANK)" for $65 a day. I'm not sure if this thing really classifies as a car. Two of the windows are cardboard - none of the windows roll down and the air conditioner doesn't work; the tailgate is broken; the tires are completely bald with tread showing through, and there is no spare!; the oil light stays on, but the native who rented us the car told us not to worry about it (?)(?). We asked him about insurance, and he laughed and said, "Insurance! What insurance? We have no insurance!" and we said, "But what if we were to wreck it?" and he replied, "So what, I own the body shop. I just tow 'em in and fix 'em up!". We are going anyway, (there's that word again!). I haven't really been on land for any length of time in months, and am pretty anxious.

We had our first anniversary Monday. Several of our now quite close friends gathered on "Patience" after Cap'n Dave blew the "conch horn" signaling Happy Hour. Every time you visit a vessel it is courtesy to bring something to offer; sometimes elaborate, but more often simple and practical. It's always interesting to see the outcome. Since it was our anniversary we got a few simple gifts; some home made, some new used books, three potatoes, a pack of napkins with a nautical bow, some Louisiana coffee, a roll of toilet paper, and many good friends. All abundantly appreciated! Afterwards we all hopped in our dinghies and puttered ashore for "Hamburger Night" at "Tiki Hut" (bring your own lettuce and tomato, of course!). "Carmen", the Bahamian barmaid at the "Tiki Hut", was to bake us a cake. I have sort of taken up "boat sitting", and our two nearest neighboring boat owners are out of town for several weeks. When they left they brought me their perishable "ship's stores", and I had an over abundance of mayonnaise; so, we had "mayonnaise night" on "Patience" and I whipped up a huge potato salad to go with the burgers. The people have been the real joy of this journey.

Must close and pack a lunch for our "island tour" tomorrow. Wish us luck! With that "car" we'll certainly need it!

May 10, 1992

Welp, we awoke the day of our "big land adventure" to "Sea Lure" playing Bob Dylan full blast on our pre-selected channel on the VHF radio. I stuck my head out of the companionway and gave them a "good morning scowl". We all scampered to load the tenders and head to shore where we were to meet the "man with the car" at the "Tiki Hut". We tied the dinghies up at the free dinghy dock and, being a bit early, all walked to "Albury's Bakery" for some of the best fresh baked muffins and brewed coffee that have ever touched my pallet! Absolutely mouth watering! Us girls picked newly bloomed hibiscus for our hair, and anxiously settled down to await the "car". We HEARD it before it was even in sight! I don't think it even had a muffler! We all climbed in and insisted that we be given at least one spare tire, so the man took us to his "car lot" (junk yard!) and sifted through a big pile of old tires, finally finding one that had SOME tread on it. At this point, the "car" was becoming the brunt of many jokes!

There is only one "road" out of "Marsh Harbour", and we had a choice to either head north or south. We chose south. We felt like the Beverly Hillbillys! Driving on the left side of the road in our "tank", which rumbled and backfired all the way out of town, set us all in a fit of laughter. Within 15 minutes of our journey, we realized that this was, indeed, going to be quite an adventure. As we said farewell to our "rental agent", he said "if you have any problems, just call. I'll bring my tow truck." We took him seriously, but soon realized that within 5 minutes out of "town" there was,,,,,,,nothing. No homes, no stores, no gas stations - nothing but a dirt road with pit holes, most BIGGER THAN THE CAR!! It was the ones full of water that we were leery of... not knowing how DEEP they were! We had to stop at the "big ones" and take soundings! We did nothing but buck and bang and sputter and backfire all the way. Realizing that if we did happen to break down we would be "shit out of luck" (excuse the expression, but it fits!) because I am sure there is not a phone to be found. Feeling adventurous, however, we "trucked" on. I don't think I have ever laughed so hard! We were nothing but a bowl of noisy dust moving through the TUNDRA. We drove and drove - seeing nothing but pot holes and dirt and rock. Very strange feeling. Finally, about 3 hours into our journey we began to recognize "Little Harbour". It was odd, because we initially had no idea where we were - only knew we couldn't get lost since there were NO TURNS TO BE HAD! Having the gut feeling that we were at or near Little Harbour (where old man Johnson raised his family in the cave and built a little "artists" community) we stopped the car. I could hear the sea and walked towards it, only to find myself on top of the cliffs of "Little Harbor" near the tricky channel, and could see the "boiling" sea. We, of course, were very proud that we "found" the place with no map (but, truth be known, hadn't the foggiest idea we were even headed there!). This is when I found the strangest sight. On top of this cliff, off to the side of the road, Jeff and I found a "hole", at least 50 or 60 feet above sea level, with salt water and tropical fish in it! You could tell it was tidal because you could see the water lines. I have yet to understand this. It was fascinating!

We got back into "old Bessie" (tank) and "trucked" on southward. The road took us to "Cherokee", a small fishing settlement south of Little Harbor, which you would pass from boat en-route to the Exumas. The scenery changed totally. Suddenly this neat little settlement appeared, all the homes immaculately neat, concrete roads (sidewalks?) neatly manicured, and small green lawns with hibiscus planted all around. There were no cars running, that we could see, anyway, and everyone was on foot. The strangest thing was that EVERYONE had blonde hair and blue eyes. We found this same scenario at "Great Guana Cay". At any rate, we walked down to the fishing docks where the locals were just coming in with their catch of the day, and you could tell they were so very proud! They were anxious to hold up their catch for you to see. It was almost a celebration. Very quite, shy folks. I really loved it there. And, everything was painted white. Impeccable and CLEAN!

Enjoying our lunch on a picnic table in this man's yard who came out and offered it to us, we drank a few "Kalik" beers, and decided to head home. We were so tired from laughing and walking that we were ready for "home". We piled back into "ole' Bessie" and started down the "road" when the back hatch fell open with a bang. The latch would not catch, so we ended up riding through the TUNDRA with our cardboard windows, no muffler, bald tires, oil light on, tailgate down with dust permeating the car, laughing so hard that Jeff (our driver, from "Sea Lure") had to pull over several times for us to "go behind a rock". My stomach and face hurt from all the laughter. The journey home was uneventful until we had our first BLOW OUT about 5 miles from town. Thank God we had a BALD SPARE! This whole adventure could have left us in a serious predicament, and I think that made it all the more humorous! This time, I am glad we went "ANYWAY!"

From "Marsh Harbour" we drove north to "Dundis Town". It was there we had our first glimpse of poverty, but stopped at a restaurant called "Mother Merel's" and had the best grouper I have ever tasted. I would sail back there just to have this wonderful cuisine! No kidding!

The next morning we had to turn in "ole' Bessie", and, oddly enough, I'll miss her.

Tomorrow we are sailing to a nearby island called "Hope Town" with "Sea Lure", "Wind Weaver", and some new additions to our fleet, "Blue Whale", "High Cotton", "Anna", and "Ocarina". Supposedly it is a quaint little settlement with spectacular beaches. I forgot to mention, also, that all the beaches we have encountered thus far have been absolutely spectacular! And, oddly enough, completely DESERTED. The sand on many islands is the slightest shade of pink. Too gorgeous for words. I will take pictures.

May 17, 1992

Awoke before dawn again this morning to an absolutely gorgeous sunrise. The weather has taken a dramatic change for the better. We haven't had a gale since the lightning storm en route back to "Marsh Harbour" from "Little Harbour" when we re-united with "Sea Lure". Gee, just as I was about to get used to it! (HA!).

We had a friend, Ken, fly in from Raleigh last evening. Met him at the "Tiki Hut", which has sort of become our home-base. "Carmen" (remember Carmen?) monitors the VHF there, and has come to know us quite well. Whenever anyone is trying to get in touch with us, "Carmen" (the VERY religious Bahamian Barmaid who, by the way, believes anyone who drinks is going to hell for sure) lets us know. She also monitors our transmissions, and if anyone is looking for us she usually knows what island we have sailed to and when we are expected to return. We seem to be "stuck" in "Marsh Harbour". It has the only airport on this side of the Bahamas (United Scareways!!), and it seems word has gotten out to our friends back home that we are indeed alive and well in the Abacos, and suddenly it is "vacation" time. We can't sail much more than a day or two from here because we seem to have a "line-up" of visitors for the summer. We had sailed to "Great Guana Cay" again yesterday ("Great Guana Resort" has the best Conch Fritters around, aside from "Winny" from the "Tiki Hut" who will not divulge her "secret recipe"!) (I'm starting to like conch!!) (just kidding!), and upon entering "Marsh Harbour" "Carmen" hailed us on the VHF to inform us our visitor (Ken) had flown in and was drinking a complimentary "Kalik" at the "Tiki Hut" anxiously awaiting our return. It's funny, because he flew in not knowing where to go, or where we were, for that matter, and the cabbie took him to "Tiki Hut" by chance. Ken inquired about "Patience" and, of course, good ole' "Carmen" had been monitoring our day's journey and knew we were en route back to "Marsh Harbour" that very moment. So, much to our surprise, we had company for dinner!

It seems the first thing all landlubbers want to do once they climb onto "Patience" is sample the local rum (I hate rum!), and last night, being no different, made this motley crew a bit worse for ware this morning! My cap'n was still "sleeping it off" below, and, not wanting to waste this gorgeous morning, I made Ken pull the hook and I took "Patience" to "Hope Town", a most charming settlement which has become my favorite haunt. It's only about a 2 hour sail away from "Marsh Harbour," and en route is a wonderful little reef ("Little Mermaid Reef") and we snuck "Patience" as close to her as safely possible, gently lowered the hook, and went skin diving. The fish are absolutely spectacular! And so tame it's almost scary at first because the Parrot fish are rather large, and plentiful, and swim right up to you. Some folks like to feed them, but I prefer not to take food of any sort in the water because there is usually a harmless Barracuda lurking somewhere in the near vicinity (and also remembered tales of woe from "Green Turtle Cay"!) (remember the cute little blonde waitress?).

I do, at times, get quite upset with visitors to these reefs. The locals have damaged so very much of the reefs unknowingly because in the past they used chlorox on them to chase the fish out into the open for spearing. Well, of course, over time this severely damaged the reefs, leaving many of them dead. However, during the day the reefs are not as spectacularly colorful as at night, and many are mistaken for "dead" reefs, and I've seen folks walk and stand on them! Just the slightest human touch will kill coral, and I can't help but get upset when I see such ignorance. Fortunately, tho, there are not many visitors to the reefs here. In fact, as I mentioned before, the reefs and beaches are practically deserted! It's great!

We arrived in "Hope Town" which has a small protected harbor, with an immaculately maintained candy-cane striped lighthouse. You can only rent a mooring here because space is so tight and holding is poor. It's interesting, because when you pick up a mooring there is usually no one to pay. You have no way of knowing who these moorings belong to unless they are marked, and you just tie up and wait for someone to contact you via dinghy. Sometimes they do - sometimes they don't. Very informal. But honesty rubs off here, and we always make every attempt to find out the owners, even if it means going from boat to boat (good way to meet folks, too!)

Speaking of local honesty, it never ceases to amaze me! Because "Hope Town" is so remote they have a "garbage boat" which comes only on Mondays from 0900 to 1000 (just as the "Boat Doctor" comes to town on Tuesdays and Thursdays - so, you have to time your illness accordingly!!). You take your trash to the public dock and, for a quarter, they will haul it away. Well, when we first arrived here we pulled up to the public dock on Wednesday, and I saw about 7 or 8 bags of garbage sitting neatly in a row against the sea wall. I commented to Cap'n Dave how tacky I thought it was to leave garbage without paying. Well, much to my shame, as we passed by that seawall I noticed there was a quarter sitting above each bag, and, do you know, when we left 3 days later those quarters were still there!!! Would never happen in America these days, I don't think. These natives are certainly not prosperous. The children are absolutely adorable! So very, very happy and polite, and they never beg. Very God-fearing as well. In all honesty, it brings tears to my eyes to have such a refreshing change of pace. Kinda hard to explain, but I think it brings out the best in you.

Taking Ken on a tour of the settlement. Tonight we are going "Junkanoo" dancing to a calypso band on the waterfront. Will try to keep the men "outtta de rummmm!" (wish me luck...) (I hate rum!!)(Aaargh!)

May 21, 1992

"Hope Town" has to be one of the most charming places I have ever been. It's just like something out of a Hemingway novel, with it's tiny white gabled houses, herb gardens planted everywhere, and lots of cats lazing about in the sun. No one is in a hurry, and everyone, for the most part, happy. The only vehicles to be found are bicycles, and as you are walking you hear the occasional jingle of a bike bell in lieu of car horns. There isn't a gas station to be had, so there are no cars with the exception of one electric one I saw.

There is one "lane" called "Family Tree Lane" where there is a huge Banyan tree with fishing buoys hanging from it painted bright colors like Christmas ornaments. Upon each buoy is the name of a family member, and it is known as the "Hope Town Family Tree". I sketched it and have decided to make my Christmas cards this year from it, substituting the family names with the names of all the vessels we have befriended on this absolutely unforgettable journey (Sea Lure, Blue Whale, Thursday's Child II, Rum Runner (aargh!), High Cotton, Ocarina, Lady of the Lake, Nimbus, Anna, Alva, Movin' On, Tortuga, Mystery, Orion, WindWeaver - and the fleet just keeps gettin' bigger every day!). I think I will address it to "our family of fair and foul weather friends". I have a feeling we will cherish the friendships we have made on this journey for a lifetime!

There are benches strategically placed all around the settlement, usually under a shady banyan tree, with spectacular views of the harbor, or lighthouse, or ocean. There is a gazebo placed on the highest point, overlooking the ocean, wide-spanned beach, and beautiful coral reefs. Here there is a wooden platform that you can climb up on and feel like you are king of the world. I climbed up on the platform yesterday to enjoy a fresh ocean breeze and spotted part of our "fleet" sitting a ways down the beach, and a Canadian friend from "Thursday's Child II" was giving sextant lessons, so I went down and joined them. We all gathered later on the beach for a "pot luck" barbecue, sort of "jury rigging" a grill and using alot of coconut husks for fuel. It was magnificent! We all brought our instrument of choice and danced and sang under the moonlight. I'm in heaven!

One lane just "ends" at the harbor entrance, and there is a bench and steps leading straight down into the ocean water. I like to sit on this bench and watch the boats come in. Another bench is placed across the harbor with a spectacular view of the lighthouse, with all the sailboats moored between you and it. This is where I like to just sit and sketch.

Nearby, a local conch fisherman named "DooDa" (who looks and talks just like Crocodile Dundee, and claims he makes the "best conch salad in the oilands") stands by the seawall with his "crew" and cleans conch all day. On Saturdays he gathers on a nearby bench under a tree and sells his "conch salad". He's pretty "flirty" with the ladies, tho, and one evening while "the guys" were at Happy Hour at "Captain Jacks" (a waterfront pub that serves the strongest rum drinks in the Abacos) drinking (what else) rum (I hate rum!), I remained on the boat cooking a big pot of shrimp gumbo. It was just about sundown, and this time of day most everyone is at "happy hour" somewhere or another. Anyway, I was below fixing my roux, when all of a sudden I heard all this yelling and screaming. I poked my head outside of the companionway and saw "DooDa", buck naked, running (staggering) around the deck of his boat in all his splendor with a butcher knife trying to stab the hands of a local fella who had pulled up on his motorboat and was confronting "DooDa" with something that apparently was very disturbing to both "gentlemen"! The fella was hanging on to "DooDa's" sailboat and shouting obscenities at him. The next thing I knew "DooDa" leaps off his boat onto the other fella's back, and was trying stab him!!! Just like in the movies! I'd never seen anything like it! However, at this point I was becoming a bit concerned that I might be witnessing a murder - and that I might be next,(!) so, I closed the hatch and was peering at the excitement out of small air vents. (especially after looking around and realized I was the only one who was seeing this whole fiasco!). They fought and cursed one another, "DooDa" still riding the other fella like a bucking horse,and finally I see the motorboat take off for shore, with "DooDa" still naked as a jay-bird riding on the driver's back. They docked at "Captain Jacks" and I saw them scramble on shore and continue their scuffle - then disappeared out of sight. Boy - that was an eye opener to say the least. I couldn't wait to tell the guys of my adventure, and when they finally came back to "Patience" with the crew from "Blue Whale", no one believed me! (and I don't even drink RUM!) (It was quite evident to me by that time that "DooDa" DOES!) The following morning I saw the "Police Boat" (which had to come all the way from "Marsh Harbour" because they had a police chief here in "Hope Town" once, but he retired 4 years ago and they never replaced him! ) pull up to "DooDa's" boat and summons him on deck. I immediately went below and kept a low profile. I could see "DooDa's" arms gesturing wildly making all the hand-movements of what had happened - even down to his stabbing motions! Later we heard "through the boat vine" that "DooDa" had slept with the other fellas wife, and he didn't like it very much (the other fella, that is!). All is well now, tho, because I saw them go out fishing together the next morning laughing and carrying on as though nothing had happened.. I guess you can't stay angry for long in "Paradise"!

Anyway (there's that word again!), that was the first signs of violence/crime, whatever you want to call it, I had witnessed since arriving in the Abacos. Hopefully the last! I think if "DooDa" had really intended to hurt the fella he could have. It made for an exciting afternoon, at any rate!

I have explored this settlement pretty extensively and found an overgrown path leading through the piney woods, and pursuing it I followed the sounds of the sea. Up on a ridge overlooking the sea I found the oldest graveyard I had ever seen! Most of the graves dated back into the 16th century! Most were eligible and crumbling, covered with pinestraw, and there were even some bones here and there that had been laying there so long they were smooth and sun-bleached. It could have been spooky, nestled under the darkness of the trees, but I found it absolutely fascinating! Apparently the life-span was quite short back then.

We decided to sail Ken up to Great Guana for some excellent conch fritters (yes, I think I like conch, but I'll NEVER get used to that damned RUM!). We had alot of fun wandering through the lanes in the settlement. Ken found an old net-less basketball hoop nailed to a palm tree, found a coconut, and proceeded to play basketball! It was hilarious!

Before leaving "Patience" Ken set out a hook and came "home" to find a nice-sized grouper awaiting us on the end of the line. So, we filet it, marinated it in lemon, oil, and fresh herbs from "Hope Town", and grilled it on our gas grill. Most excellent! Why, oh why, does everything taste so good on a boat???!

May 22, 1992

Our visitors are beginning to overlap! Our incoming correspondence is so irregular that we seem to be kept in the dark until the last minute (remember, the Mail Boat only comes on Thursdays). Today we received a letter informing us of a visitor which was posted 6 weeks ago from Ft. Lauderdale, yet arrived here via MANILLA! Figure that one out! So - we had to head back to good ole' "Marsh Harbour" from "Great Guana Cay" in order to meet Steve, my brother-in-law, and, two days later we now know that Scott (best man at our wedding) is flying in via "United Scareways" as well! Gee,,,that means - let's see - there'll be me, Cap'n Dave, Ken, Steve, Scott and Bart (the macaw) all living happily (?) together on "Patience". AAARGH! I think I'm going to have to "lay down the law" about the rum! I can't handle four drunk men and a bird! (It's hard enough to handle ONE drunk man and a bird!) I think I forgot to mention that the last time we were in "Hope Town", Cap'n Dave had returned from "Captain Jack's" happy hour (who still has the strongest $1.50 rum drinks around) (I hate rum!) - climbed into the cockpit - put Bart on his shoulder - and fell off the boat. It flustered Bart a bit, but barely got his feathers wet. It did, however, create quite a stir of activity on the VHF with reports of a "beached whale in the harbor" (Dave, if you remember, is a rather large unit!), and soon I heard dinghy motors crank up all across the harbor to carry other Captains (I now refer to them as the "rum runners"!) over to "Patience" to give poor ole' Cap'n Dave their moral support (all wielding rum, of course). So - I hooked up the windscoop, made my exit, and settled down below in the V-birth with a good book.

Since Scott was flying in any day, it totally limited our sailing activity, so we took brother Steve over to "Hope Town" (this is becoming known as the "Hope Town Hop".) I have no complaints, tho. I absolute adore the place! This morning while "the guys" had dinghied to shore for breakfast and to meet the "Garbage Boat" I was sitting on deck mending sails. I noticed a sailboat leaving the harbor ("Mystic"), but didn't pay them much mind. I did, however, notice when they turned around and started circling "Patience". Apparently they remembered "Patience" from Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, and were en-route to the Exumas. They had a paid slip at the "Conch Inn" (where you can go to the "Conched Out" bar and drink their famous "Conch Crawl") (I hate conch!) for a month and said we were welcome to use it. Well, we much prefer anchoring out, but did take them up on their kind offer long enough to fetch Scott. This was another instance where we didn't know Scott's time of arrival, and scooted back from "Hope Town" to "Marsh Harbour" as early as tide would allow. We were entering "Marsh Harbour" and I hailed the "Conch Inn Marina" on the VHF to inform them of our arrival. Carmen (from the "Tiki Hut") was, again, monitoring our journey, and heard my transmission. She called us up and told us Scott had already arrived and was sitting at the "Tiki Hut" drinking a "Kalik". So, that worked out just fine. We were able to pull into the marina, gas up, water up, get ice, fetch Scott and go! (thank God they forgot the rum!) (or so I thought!)

Interestingly enough, when Scott reached the "Tiki Hut" there was only one gentleman at the bar (Harry), and Scott, being the friendly sort, sat down next to him and struck up a conversation. Well, it turns out that Harry is a builder from Raleigh, North Carolina, and Scott is a carpenter foreman in Raleigh, North Carolina, and they had worked on the same homes together in the past. Small, small world. Harry ended up becoming a member of our fleet, and steadfast friend.

Scott was thoughtful enough to bring us a "care package" from home. I was delighted! All sorts of munchies and crunchies (it's hard to keep crunchies crunchy on a boat!) He brought fresh crackers, goldfish, Worthers Originals, Pringles (I hid the Pringles). So, I was well stocked with "Happy Hour" hors d'oeuvres. He also brought newspapers from home from the past few weeks. We were so "starved" for news that we read every single little print - even down to the obits! (never read them before, and make for some pretty dull reading!) (fortunately, didn't know anyone).

That evening Cap'n Dave, Steve, Ken, Scott and I dinghied to the covered picnic area near the "Tiki Hut" to listen to a great reggae band, and I danced the momba all night with the natives. You have to be careful, tho, because the men get pretty "physical" (if you know what I mean!). There is a noticeable shortage of women on these cays!

Harry showed up, got drunk, fell "up" the stairs, and broke his ankle. Didn't feel a thing (then). However, this was a blessing in disguise for me because he was pretty much incapacitated and Scott and Steve decided to stay on his boat (since he was solo) and help him out! Wonder of all Wonders! Now I just have to deal with TWO drunk men and a parrot!

The next day we took the guys to a spectacular coral reef off of the north shore of "Man-O-War Cay". It is a natural wildlife preserve, and you have to anchor near the cay and dinghy out to a mooring. The reef is so large that this is no problem because the reefs break the waves, and the water is relatively calm. (This is the reef I mentioned earlier that the vessel hit, caught on fire, and crew abandoned ship and were "lost" for several hours. As a follow-up, they were able to salvage the sailboat and are currently restoring it in "Man-O-War". All crew were safe). We have become quite able skin divers, and this day I was to "lead the pack". I jumped into the water and began swimming around this HUGE mushroom-shaped reef. I was afraid to swim on the ocean side, because it got quite deep (and remembrances of the tales of woe from that cute little blonde waitress at "Green Turtle Cay" kept floating through my head, but I won't go into that now!). ANYWAY, the water is absolutely crystal clear. I mean this in every sense of the word. Nothing like anything I have ever seen before. I lived in the Keys for several years, and it was no comparison! Just spectacular! There was so much coral and so many little hiding places that it was almost hard to distinguish the fish! I totally (almost) lost all my inhibitions, and was just swimming along around the reef as pretty as you please. The brain corals and barrel corals were HUGE! Sea Fans gently swaying with the tides, and the starfish - they were EVERYWHERE!! I swam back to the dinghy, climbed on board, and awaited the guys to follow suit. Well, when they surfaced they were agog with excitement. I was hearing phrases like "God, did you see that!", and "that was the biggest one I have ever seen!", etc,,,,, When they finally reached the dinghy, Ken surfaced and said, "God, Terri, you're the brave one! I wouldn't have done that if you paid me!". I hadn't the foggiest idea what the hell they were talking about, but soon learned that a 6 or 7 foot barracuda had come out from under the reef (the darker part under the "mushroom") and was following right behind me the whole time!!!!*@#!~!!X !!




Apparently he was seeing if I had any goodies for him, because he didn't bother me in the least. This is a perfect example of "ignorance is bliss"! I am still convinced that these big guys are simply curious, and won't bother you unless you have something they want, and, if you do, GIVE IT TO THEM!

Having enough of that excitement, we then decided to visit "Man-O-War Cay". They are famous for their hand-built wooden boats, and one of the oldest residents there still builds skiffs, by himself, in his tiny garage. We stopped in and chatted with him a bit, and he said it takes him almost a year to complete a vessel.

We then ventured down to the beach (deserted, as usual) and Ken and I went shell collecting. It was here that I found a "note in a bottle". Seriously! I was so excited! It was an old whiskey bottle that evidently had been adrift for quite some time, because as I tried to break the bottle on a rock (would clean up the glass, of course) the note simply disintegrated! I was so very, very disappointed. It sort of just turned into paper pulp.

Gathering more shells that we could fit in our pockets we rounded up Cap'n Dave, Steve and Scott and headed back to "Patience". The guys decided to stop and get some rum (I hate rum!), but this is a "dry" settlement and they were out of luck. (Oh, happy day!) We only had one "Kalik" left, and guess who got it! ME, of course! (I LOVE Kalik!!) Ken fixed us a big ole' pot of spaghetti, I hoisted the hammock and brought out the guitars (Dave played "conch horn") and settled in for the evening. All is right with the world.

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(c)1995 - Terri Robbins
21st Century Adventures - August 1995