Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bye Bye Bubba

For the past 12 years, Bubba has been the resident 6 foot barracuda known for his long, sharp teeth and his propensity for hanging around the swim platforms of boats visiting the Exuma Land and Sea Park, begging for handouts.  During one of his latest feeding frenzies, he wolfed down a human foot.  That the foot was until that moment attached to a living leg was irrelevant.  Bubba's policy was to bite first, asks questions later.  Park wardens lured him in with weiners, and gave him a spear in the head.  Good bye, Bubba.  Warden Chris tells us there are several contenders vying for Bubba's place in the folklore of the park.  Not to worry, tourists can once more pit themselves against the wild, risking life and limb in the process.  If the park doesn't give them what they need, they can always go swim with the sharks at Compass Cay.

Lion Fish are native to the Pacific Ocean and have no natural enemnies in the waters of the Caribbean.  This fish has a beautiful array of striped fins and tail, each ending in a poisonous spur--a mortal danger to small victims, an extremely painful encounter for larger prey.  One man told us from first hand experience that he entered "a world of pain" for 5 hours after contact with a small one.
Many efforts to irradicate this menace to reef life have been tried.  A recent fishing tournament in Nassau brought in over 900 fish in one day...a drop in the bucket.  The Exuma Land and Sea Park tried issuing one-day permits for divers to spear them, but because this liberty was abused by divers too sorely tempted to bag a tasty snapper while they were at it, this practice has been scrapped.  We met Chef Paul, on a visit to Compass Cay, who showed us how to fillet the beast.  His aim is to teach the world to EAT this tender, delicate-fleshed fish.  Supposedly they are just as delicious as the now endangered Hog Fish, or more so.  Nothing like creating a taste for something to send it reeling towards the endangered list!!

The war wages on, no end in sight. 

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Making Tracks

                                                                         Welcome to today's interactive blog spot, where you get a chance to identify island flora and fauna!

I have seen these in Africa that were taller than a man standing on another man's shoulders.  Can you guess what this is?    A termite lodge.

A hint:  not a bicycle tire print.  This print is on an inland pathway.  Hermit crabs make these tracks, some bigger than others, but always somehow comical.

You would find these special sites on the beach.  Fiddler Crabs make nice little hidey holes where they disappear so completely that even Nifty Nose Nelson can't find them.

These hefty tracks were left by a 4X4 Kubota.

I have been told repeatedly that there are no poisonous  snakes in the Bahamas.  Then I was told that if a foreign snake were to arrive here somehow, the local boa constrictors would kill it.  Now I ask you: does a snake have to be poisonour to kill a person who is morbidly afraid of slithering sidewinders?
Here we seet the path left by the dragging tail and small feet of the blue-tailed lizard called the Skank or in local parlance, a Lion Lizard.
I LOVE these little bird foot prints.

Finally, here's one for Darren Shilton who will immediately recognize this rare, on island find: 
A Golden Oldie Bud Girl from 1992.
Note:  still no canckles.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Boat-made Bread

                                                                                                                                                                                 We're out of bread, eggs, talcum powder, fruits and veggies.  Time to make our own bread.  Two cups of white flour and three cups of whole wheat.  Honey instead of sugar.  No eggs.  Couldn't find my favorite "Ocean's Balms of Love" recipe, so we went with the Betty Crocker "Oldie but Goodie".

Extra-fudge brownie mix is out of the oven, and the bread is finished its second rising.  Ready for its turn in the oven.

Perfectly cooked and ready to eat. Is your mouth watering?  Can you smell that yeasty yumminess?   The trick now will be to savour it slowly and not finish it all off in one day.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Nelson at play.

Admiral Lord Nelson Grisly Nickerson is an 18 month old Havanese, born in Rhode Island, immigrated to Canada, took up residence in Ontario and is now learning to be a boat dog, as per his name sake.

He takes his responsibilities seriously.  Here he is learning to drive the dingy.  This is after learning how to jump into and out of it on  his own.  He is currently working on sitting in his own appointed seat and not digging his claws for purchase into some person's lap
For the first 14 months of his life, Nelson has been a remarkable "receiver", not a "retriever".  His game has been to chase the ball and then play "puppy keep away" guarding it from one and all.  He often will dig holes for it in the sand and pretend to bury it, but then he simply can not leave it there.  Lately, he has begun to see the fun in retrieving and having the ball thrown again and again and again and again and.....oh give up already.
 Jumping into the waves takes bravery that is not part of the original equipment most puppies come with.  It has taken some time to learn that one can get wet and live, that waves come and go, and that salt water will taste just as salty at this end of the beach as it does at the other end.  Here we see our hero racing madly in,

going under,

racing madly out.

Lost it.....

I see it.

Get out quickly.

A wave up  the but makes his tail stand up.  He looks so funny, but somehow I don't think he was amused.

All the salt and sand, the burrs from the spiky grasses,  not to mention his coat's tendancy to mat, makes for frequent (should be daily), uncomfortable grooming sessions.  We are all getting better at it lately:  Buz at holding the head/teeth away from my hands, me at starting with the slicker and moving gradually to the comb and Nelson at putting up with it for minutes longer day by day.  I guess he is growing up and getting used to what it takes to live the happy-go-lucky life of a sailing dog.   My hairdresser at home laughs histerically and calls me a "wannabe".  When there is no one else who will let me at them with a pair of scissors, there's always the long-haired pouch.  It's amazing how quickly it grows back, how trusting the sweetheart is to let me near him with sharp instruments and how forgiving his pure heart is when I leave  him uneven and raggedy.

Would you do that to your dog?
Would your dog let you?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Story of Burkie Rolle

The population on Staniel Cay is between 85 and 90 Bahamians and about 20 US land holders.  Smaller than Black Point by 250 souls, Staniel is THE bustling mecca of the tourist trade.  Drawn in mainly by the SCYC, so admirably promoted by its owner David, cruisers, charter yachts and off-island visitors find diversion, provision and community on Staniel Cay.

Imbibing local colour can be done in a variety of ways:  attending fund-raisers to support the local school library, fishing tournaments, Superbowl Regattas, or Christmas feasts and festivals where the whole land and water-side community is involved.  The people on Staniel are its most cherished asset.      Joan Rolle is one of the efficient, long-time bar tenders at SCYC.  Her warm, slow smile covers you like molasses and sweetens your day.  She angles for a date and time to have her nails done and lazily kibitzes abut daily life as if time were not relavent.

Burk Rolle owner of the Blue Store offers a seat in the shade and chats you up about home, savouring his slice of paradise away from the land of ice and snow.  His wife sits by, absently weaving mat strips by the mile, preparing them to be made into baskets for the tourist trade.

Believe it or not, there are two men in the 85 with the exact same name.  Rolle is the most common last name in the Exumas, being derived from Lord John Rolle who set up plantations on land granted to him by the British Crown in the late 1700's.  His attempts at plantation life were thwarted by the poor soil here, and he was forced to acknowledge defeat.  After emancipation, the slaves took on his name as their own.  Over the years, the progeny has swelled as each man has done his best to leave his mark on the family tree.  With our story of Tucker Rolle on Compass as an example, one can easily see why there are so many with the same last name here.

Let me introduce the second Mr. Burk Rolle.

That he has a story to tell is immediately obvious the moment one lays eyes on him.  Today, he is near 60 years old.  If  you are lookingt for him, get ready for a hike, because this man's on the move.   He is the go-to-man if you need to refill your propane tanks.  He is owner/operator of Isles General Store.  He works as dock-hand at SCYC.  He has recently been promoted to acting pastor of the local Baptist Church.  He is a family man with children, grandchildren, several dogs, fishing boats, and real estate for sale.  The list is endless, which makes him a moving target.

About 12 years ago, taking stock of his many respoibilities, Burk decided it was time to get some health and life insurance.  The papers were signed, the premiums were paid, the certificates delivered.  Almost one-month-to-the-day later, tragedy struck.

It was just after dark on a moonless night, as Burk drove the dirt path in his old pick up towards home.  The path is almost a road by its constant use as a shortcut across the west end of the Cay.  There is scrubby jungle growth on one side and the airport runway on the other.  Two men, one driving a beat up truck, one coming in for landing in a single-engine airplane.  One intersecting point on each trajectory and one life-changing impact.  As in the case of many traumatic incidents, amnesia has claimed most of the details.  Being that Burk is a bonafide tea tottling abstainer, precludes the assumption that alcohol was in any way involved.  There was no airstrip lighting in those days.  Each landing pilot is supposed to do a fly-by to assertain that the runway is clear, and usually there would be no air traffic after dark.

Burkie was air lifted to Nassau for life-saving surgical treatment and plasma infusions.  His face was lacerated in several places and he had many broken bones.  He had lost a great deal of blood and most of his left arm.  Once he was stablized, he was evacuated to Miami where he spent many, many months receiving reconstructive surgeries and rehabilitation.  He was fitted for a prothesis, which he chooses not to use.  The medical bills and evac fees were astronomical and would have bankrupted his entire family but for the insurance coverage so providentially in place in his time of need.

These days, Burk Rolle is an Elder, sitting on council governing the day-to-day running of the island.  He feels blest to have been cared for so freely and so well by his family, his community, his medical teams and his insurance agents.  In a small world like it is here on-island, this is a happy-ending story for the whole community.

Here's hoping you enjoyed the story.  Comments are always welcome and looked for.  Thanx for reading.

A Day on Staniel Cay

Okay, Folks, hold your horses.  We be on island time now.  Welcome to Staniel Cay!  The backbone of the Exuma Chain, this island has lots to offer.  Cruisers tend to visit repeatedly during a tour thru the cays, to take advantage of the many amenities here.

Number One:   The Staniel Cay Yacht Club bar and restaurant.  Especially during the lead-up, play-offs and final Superbowl hoopla, this is a rocking place to watch, lay bets and make merry while cheering for your favourite team.  Mega Yachts pull in here, discharge their well-heeled (in flip flops) clientelle and make the SCYC the place to see and be seen.                                                                Number Two:  The Batelco Tower.  Cell phone coverage, WiFi and general communications are good here.  Both from the Sound and the Bank as you approach the island, this is a welcome sight after days without news from home.
Number Three:  Isles General, The Blue Store and the Pink Store all get fresh provisions delivered from off island on a regular basis.  The early morning buz over the VHF radio is all about which day the Captian C arrives, the most welcomed boat to to the cay.  If you are new to the shopping experience here, you might make a list of what you want/need to reprovision.  The way it actually works is that you go and see what there is on offer and make your selections accordingly.  There is a one-room elementary school 0-8 here.  For  High School, pupils are sent to stay with Auntie in Nassau, if they go at all. 

Number Four:  St. Lukes Medical Clinic is staffed by an out-post public health nurse.  The major health issues for the native people of the islands is Diabetes and age-related issues.  Nurse Gray sees to the elderly who can not care for themselves.  For emeregency care in case of accident, there is Roy Leese, a paramedic/fireman from state-side who renders first response aide, preparing patients for airlift to the states or to Nassau, as individual cases require. 

Number Five:  The Graveyard.  Should the need arise, one could get buried here.  There is an annual Festival of the Dead when graves are cleaned up, flowers are bestowed and prayers are said.
Number Six:  Lots of entertainment, such as Thunderball Cave where one can snorkle and admire the colourful fish.  This is where James Bond found the enemy submarine base, which in reality is so small a row boat would barely fit inside.  So many people have been feeding the fish, luring them in for a close-up with the underwater cameras, that they have developed "attitude".    The gazillion little Sargent Majors throng divers as soon as they get in the water, bonking right into their face masks, demanding food.  

Some enterprising islander has populated the close-by cay of Big Majors with ferral pigs.  The cruisers dump their wet garbage just off shore and those wee-little piggies (weighing over 300 pounds) come galloping across the sand and swim out for lunch.  This is a win-win situation all round:  the islander gets fattened pigs for slaugher, the pigs are thrilled with easy pickings and the sentimental/silly cruisers get huge delight out of interacting with piggies.  It might be urban legend, but there are reports of pigs biting people, crawling into, puncturing and even dumping dingies.  Ignorance is bliss.

The Happy People Bar and Grill is a favorite spot for imbibing, I am told, although on my many visits here, I have yet to find them open for buisness.  Since my last visit, there have been some improvements on the outside that make for pretty pictures if one angles the camera just right.  Buz says I am romaticizing the life here.  Well, would you like to see the poverty?  This is a third world country and there is the ugly side of things here.  It is't really the thing to do, shoving a camera into places even the locals are not proud of.  Still, even the garbage dump in the harbour has its pretty side. Conch is a food staple in the Bahamas, but there is a problem of what to do with the inedible parts.  Time and tide take care of things over decades, a very long, slow process.  In the interim, there are designated dumping sites set aside, usually out of the eye of tourists.

All for today.We'll look for shade and a cool drink, take a swim, walk the beach and think of you until next time.  Love and Kisses.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Crash, Smash, Oops and Wow!

1.  Blue ceramic fish light--the kind that makes neat shadodws and dancing images with a votive candle.  In the middle of the night, the boat began rocking and good bye fishie:  crash (wake up), smash (sit up), what was that? (get up).

2.  Image-stablizing binoculars:  Buz' pride and joy.  He could spot a bikini at five miles with those babies.  The bright yellow Pellican Case hadn't been completely closed.  Picking it up by the handle sent those magic eyes flying down the fly bridge stairs, bouncing all the way to the bottom. Smash.  Ouch!  that one really hurts.

3.  Forgot to put the butter back in the fridge.  Oops.  Now it's an oily, yellow puddle.

4.  I can count on one hand, with fingers left over, the number of stars, planets and constellations I know by name, but that doesn't mean I am not facinated by the night sky at sea.  I have never seen this in the city, or even in the country side:  millions and millions of stars in every direction.  The world is divided in half.  180 degrees is full of water, 180 degrees of sky filled with stars, all the way down to the water line.  Wow!

5.  Under the title of Miscellaneous: 
                  *  The forgotten joys of cruising life:  oxidized red wine, out-of-date dip and stale, soggy
crackers: ah! 
                  *  New names that feel like fun on the tongue: "Limbo Gumbo Tree",  "Silver Buttonwood Bush", "Oyster Eaters".
                  *  Catching sight of a ray jumping clear of the surface, flashing his white underbelly and diving back in leaving only a ripple on the surface to confirm you actually saw him.
                  *  Pretty copper pennies, smaller in circumference and sporting a dainty starfish on the tailside.
                  *  Secret gloating at reports from home full of snow, cold and misery.  Don't tell anyone, they might think I'm truly terrible and stop reading my blog.  (FYI:  that is an ice-bound relic in Port Dalhousie, not a Bahamian derelict on  white sand dune, compliments of Gerry Walker back home.)

Stay tuned for the Staniel Cay Tour coming up.  Till next time....keep smiling.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Owl and the Pussy Cat

The Owl and

the Pussy Cat

went to sea

in a beautiful pea-green


They  took some honey

and plenty of money

wrapped up in a Five Pound  Note.

They sailed away

for a year and a day

to the land where the

BONG TREE grows...

And there, in a wood,

a Piggy-wig stood,

with a ring in the end of his nose,

his NOSE!

with a ring in the end of his nose.

 Are you willing,

 to sell for one Shilling,

your ring?
 Said the Piggy, "I will".  
They took it away

and were married next day,

by the turkey who lives on the hill

They dined on mince,

and slices of quince,

which they ate with a runcible spoon...

And hand in hand,

on the edge of the sand,

they danced by the light of the moon,

the moon,

they danced by the light of the moon.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Moans and Groans

cough, cough


aaa chooo,   aa aa aaachooooo



"The - er is a balm in Gil - ee -ad..."

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Day on Compass Cay

Sorry!  No stories about wild pigs and colourful stores from Staniel Cay.  Those will come another time.  Today we are in Compass Cay, hiding from the rolly seas and playing with the WiFi.

Tucker Rolle is the manager of this island.  He has been here since he was a very young man.  Now he has over, some say, a couple of dozen children from both "inside" and "outside" and is said to be still in his prime.  Over the years, he has made improvements and expansions to the marina and several villas, new and old.  He likes to sing out Welcome Home in his rich bass voice whenever you pull into the marina.
Whether you approach from the Sound or the Bank, it is a go-slow-and-careful proceedure.  From the Sound,  there are coral heads lying in wait to grab your hull and never let go.  From the Bank, the sand bars and reefs will get ya if you are not on top of your game.  Some Captains, not to mention any names, need a cold drink and a clean pair of underwear after negotiating these skinny waters.  Accidents happen when people get blaise.  Once inside, you find the nicest hurricane hole in the Exumas.

The crescent shaped beach is on the Sound side, a 4 minute walk from the marina, over the back of the island .  On the northern end of this gorgeous beach lay the remains of Ester's house.  Back in the 1940-50's, Ester and Myrtle were the only two women living on the island.  They would dine together nightly, alternating houses, saving their elderly energies by driving their golf carts back and forth.  One night, so the story goes, one of the ladies got confused and thought it was  her turn to make the drive.  It wasn't.  The two golf carts crashed head on in the dark, killing one woman outright and sending the other to Miami hospital where she later succumbed.   Ester's house, as it is still fondly called, is in ruins.  A quiet spot for a thoughtful rest, a good place to set up your easle to paint, or a platfom for nostalgic memories of how it was back in the day.  Typical of the island work ethic, things broken or no longer needed here are left where they fall.  Old boats, downed airplanes, ruined houses.  All become artificial reefs to harbour new life, either above the water line or below it.

It's a small island, everything is only a few steps away, but incase you get lost.....

Back to the Marina.  Have you heard about the pet sharks here?  People swim with them, get right in there and play around, face to face with these prehistoric cuties.  Not me.  I do donate my wet garbage overboard to feed the cause, but that's it.
They say it's a small world.  We made really good friends down here over 8 years ago with people who have a cottage just down the road from us back home.  Here they are again.  Penobscot was just putting out a second anchor yesterday as we traversed Pipe Creek, on our way to lunch at Sampson Cay.  Travel-weary after several overnight voyages from Marathon, Florida to Nassau, to the Exumas, Dick refused to have his picture published.  He had wiskers! :)

Here was a day in the life of cruisers on Compass Cay.  Gazing at the sunset, we hear a chorus of conk horns serenading us from across the water.  A perfect end to a perfect day.  Until next time, we are thinking fondly of you all back home.

ps.  Did you know that tomorrow will be longer than today by 0 minutes and 45 seconds?