Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Refrigerator Rock

In the years between 1950 and 1968, Tucker Rolle managed Compass Cay for an off-shore owner. A native son of the Bahamas, Tucker took the bounty of the seas for granted. His islands, his waters, his fish, his livelihood.

Toiling through the heat of the days, summer and winter, he fell in with the rythm of nature. He knew when to expect the spring return of the Wahoo and Mahi. He learned the cycles of spawning for grouper and conch. He discovered the secrets of spiny lobsters, finding their hiding holes and natural habitat.

Each evening when work was done, Tucker could be seen nimbly stepping into his skiff. The tourquoise waters of the Sound calmed to smooth wavelettes between the crescent beach and the three rocky out-croppings a stone's throw from shore. Bleached, dead coral above the high water line, they were rich repositories of marine life below. Tuck began referring to the largest, middle breakwall, The Refrigerator, because he always went there to get his supper.

In those days, the Bahamian out-islands were frequented by small numbers of hale and hearty sailors, mostly long-haul cruisers. Sport fishing tournaments for the rich and famous were held in Bimini, in the Abaccos, or Nassau, but the Exumas were largely Family Island backwaters of third world poverty, holding little allure for tourists. Every evening, before the sun's golden orb melted into the sea, Tucker made for his "refrigerator". He could always find fresh food to put on the table. He never came away empty-handed.

In 1978, or there abouts, the American owner of the Cay fell ill, gave up his holdings in the Bahamian Commonwealth and subsequently died. The government deeded a life-lease on Compass Cay to Tucker Rolle. Thus began a radical transformation as Tucker, the new owner, worked to realize his dream of a deep water marina and resort in the idyllic central Exumas.

Many technological advances in yacht design, electronic charting, GPS and auto-piloting, together with a booming North American economy brought more and more visitors, short-term cruisers, tourists and developers into Paradise. What had once been a sure source of seafood has been fished out, stripped bare, left empty. Those in search of lobster, conch or grouper have to foray into deeper waters and use scuba gear (against all regulations) to enjoy the tasty thrill of seafood delicacies for dinners.

Yes, it is still called Refrigerator Rock. Newcomers scratch their heads as they try in vain to see how it could resemble a fridge at home. It is nothing more than ragged, lifeless rock, above and below the waterline.

ps.  This is a piece I wrote for the writing course I am doing with Oh The Stories You Will Tell.  Natacha, of Creative Nachos, is our wonderful, inspiring teacher.  She liked this story and I hope you will too.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Exuma Land and Sea Park

I know I have been neglecting you, my blogging buddies, but I have an excellent excuse:  I have been engrossed in my on-line writers' course with Oh, The Stories You'll Tell.  The incredible slowness of out-island Internet, has made multi-tasking a torture and so something has to give.  Between crafting on-line wedding invitations and a wedding blog site and you....well, you got it.  Please accept my apologies.

Last week, Steadfast and Outta Thin Air took a jaunt over to Wardrick Wells for two nights.  The North Anchorage, the pretty one by the office, was completely booked up and so we braved the outside rollers and made fast in the South Anchorage by Hog's Cay.  We were the only boats there and had the whole playground to ourselves.  Even Bubba, the 6 foot barracuda, was not in evidence (probably getting his tummy filled by cruisers' handouts on the north side.)

Established in 1958 and made a no-take marine reserve in 1986, the park guarantees beauty and bounty at every turn.  Great hikes, beaches, coral reefs for snorkeling and diving, safe anchorage to weather the storms, the Park has lots to offer.  This is the only park that functions both as a marine reserve and recreational area in the whole of the Caribbean.  Proof abounds of the tremendous benefit this park provides to lobster, grouper and conch fisheries for a 150 mile radius.

Besides giving breeding ground refuge to marine and shore life flora, the Park makes rigorous efforts to educate the public on safe and ecological boating practices.  Every visit here reminds me to use biodegradables, to conserve water and take care with grey/black water discharges.  I call this next picture "Death by Plastic".

Consuming plastic garbage killed this magnificent 52 foot sperm whale.  Plastics floating in the seas are responsible for the needless deaths of thousands of sea mammals, turtles and birds every year.  Mistaken for jelly fish, plastic bags are swallowed whole.  Netting and plastic lines entangle animals and prevent them from reaching the surface to breathe or snare birds legs, or wings.  It is time for us as human wardens of our planet to rethink the whole plastics issue.

Yes, we got to snorkel the back reef while we were there--one of my favorites.  We saw several lobster and could only drool into our masks thinking of what a delicious dinner they could be.  Left undisturbed, they will produce enough eggs to repopulate the 150 mile Exuma chain that is so consistently fished out by cruisers and natives alike.

We are hearing reports of new snows back home, just as the first crocuses had popped their heads out.  I will not be in any hurry to rush back until all that nasty is totally gone.  There are still more than two weeks left of my sojourn here and I am going to devour every day remaining.  Drop me a line and tell me about life where you are.  Are you living in the moment, each and every day?  Is the cold routine of winter still holding you down, or has the promise of Spring made herself known where you are?  I am sending warm and sunny thoughts your way, so keep a lookout for them.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Vision on Wings

There are so few birds in these out-islands, that spotting a flock of 10 to 12 at once was a significant event. That they were much more than “just birds” made it even more exciting. My eyes traced their swooping, wheeling, diving, soaring flight paths. They called to each other and chorused together as they flew, reveling in the joy of being alive.

My heart picked up the pace—I wanted them to come closer and let me really see them, identify them, claim them as my own. They were oblivious of me, more attuned to one another. Was I watching a mating rendez-vous? It must have been more than that—their passion wasn’t directed one-on-one, but more on freedom, flight and fancy. Where did they come from? Can they be indigenous? I’ve never seen them before in ten years here. Perhaps this is a migration stop-over, in which case, where are they going? Will we see them again?
Their iridescent underbodies and extended wings reflected the turquoise water below, subtly turning them a soft green hue. Their wings wore black banded tips. Their voices were musical, but I couldn’t see more than a red splash of their beaks. It was the sight of the tails that made them startlingly spectacular! Longer than twice their body length, their tails trailed like slender ribbons as they spiraled, dipped and dove in
aerial dance.

Why did my companions give these beauties only a passing glance? Why did they respond "Birds" with a shrug of the shoulders and a smirk at my excitement? Spirits diminish when they lose a child-like wonder and interaction with their world. Surly the Creator found these avians worthy of attention, adorning them beyond basic functionality.   Ours is not a Utilitarian Universe so totally dedicated to function as to preclude the value of beauty in hidden places, splendor in colour and form, or surprise in the unusual and rare.

Eyes see, minds interpret, hearts, if allowed, live out the vision. A glance, a stare, a studied examination. Really, truly, deeply seeing. Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s riff plays in my head:

The world is so full

Of a number of things,

I’m sure we should all

Be as happy as kings.

Can anybody out there identify these birds for me?  Maybe they live where you do.  They're not from my neck of the woods. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lost At Sea!

We were on a mooring. 
Land was a ways off.
There was no dock in site.
One was either on board,

Where was Nelson???????

Not in the salon.
 Not in the head.
Not in the forward stateroom.
Not in the guest cabin.
Not in the "garage" a la "Outta".

Where could he be??????????????
I was getting seriously freaked!

Sam decided there was one last place to check--the lazy boy recliner-built-in.  He pulled the lever.
The couch opened into a chaise-lounge.
A blonde head popped up.

There he was, safe and sound.  Unharmed and unafraid. 
Our baby was back.
Joys peculiar to the boating life style!

Have you ever found your pet in a strange hiding place?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Island Time

Today a man’s tee shirt logo caught my eye:

“I’m on Island Time”

Hey World, that’s me and my computer too. To begin with, my laptop is very old (in techno terms) and extremely slow. Add to that, a home base that rocks, rolls and drifts in and out of wifi reception. Some days/weeks, Steadfast is completely out of range altogether. Pile on paying exorbitant fees for minutes and mega bites and you might begin to understand the issues of Island Blog Frustration I am dealing with here. Did I mention, speedy follow-me-I’ll-follow-you types pick me up and drop me after a measly 24 hours if they haven’t received a favourable reply by then? Often, it’s all I can do to check the email before the whole shebang seizes up and I run screaming from the desk.  That's when I remember where I am and all the other fun things I can do  instead of fighting with a machine and the WWW.
One thing I have to keep reminding myself is that not all of the bloggers out there are living in Suburbia, USA/Canada. Some live on the other side of the globe, some blog from the mountains, some from deserts, and some like me, from boats at sea. I haven’t come across any from outer space yet, but that is only a matter of time, I’m sure. It’s fun to meet people from afar, to learn what life is like where they live. We all inhabit different realities.

Just to let you know, my computer and I are on Island Time. Please deal gently with us.

What about you:  do you have a pet-peave with blogging?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Bahamian Lion Safari

We saw two of them lurking in the shallows. With no known predators, viruses or diseases to which they are susceptible, these two reef menaces lazily spread their venomous fins and spines, gobbling up baby fish by the dozens. If left unchecked, they quickly reproduce, devour their way through the ready supply of food and move on, wrecking havoc one reef at a time. Meet the poisonous Lion Fish.

Native to the South Pacific, it is unknown how or when they came to live in the Atlantic and Caribbean

Seas. Researchers and marine biologists are scrambling to find out how to control the devastation caused by these alien intruders. Nassau bureaucrats designated a bounty and open hunting season a couple of years ago. Many thousands were “bagged”, but the plague goes on unchecked.

Those in the food industry have done their part, touting the flesh of Lion Fish as incredibly tender and delicious, but few divers want to get close enough to the poisonous spines to clean and fillet them. Once they are speared, these fish need to be disposed of very carefully or a world of pain awaits an unsuspecting handler.

Steadfast Captain, Crew and Guests have been on the lookout for sightings, and low and behold, we found two, right here in Compass Cay Marina. Number One Guest garnered permission to spear-fish them, contravening the “no fishing in the marina” rules. Success!

One down, one bigger one to go.

Ah ha! It seems these Lions are quick on the uptake.

-Divers, dead buddy, danger!

Bigger Mr. Lion Fish has been in hiding ever since and despite daily forays into his territory, the hunters have come away with empty spears.

The hunt has become obsessive. Who will win this contest--the Hunter or the Hunted? Surly the human brain can outwit the fishy thought process and prove victorious. Let’s all think like a fish-in-hiding and figure out the next move. Awaiting your input, we remain,

Lion Hunters On Safari!