We recently had two sets of cruising friends swallow the anchor. This expression means they are selling their boat and giving up the cruising life, for good. The thing they both had in common is once they made this decision they became excited about returning to a life containing various aspects of normalcy. There are facets of the cruising lifestyle that can just really weigh on a sailor and get them down. We too have experienced massive levels of frustration in the Bahamas. We are not at a point where we are willing to swallow the anchor, but I can see how others reach this point and decide to not go on. On this blog we try to be fair and not just report the good stuff. If you are a regular reader you already know not every day in our world is sunny. Aww poor you, you may say. After all, we are in the Bahamas floating around on a boat. How bad can things really be? And, I’ll be brutally honest here; a bad day on the boat is still a lot better than my best day ever in the corporate rat race in which I once partook. So, keep this in mind if I tend to rant on about things driving me crazy lately.
I am tired of paying for things that just don’t work. Sometimes this gets me down and I just want to scream. Upon arrival in George Town, we signed up for a Wi-Fi service called Bahamas WiMax. It is $50 for a month of unlimited data usage. Sounds like a great deal, right? Well, it is on the days when it works. But most of the time the internet is so slow it reminds me of our early internet days of dial up modems. Our service is so intermittent we have now given up any expectation of consistent decent internet. It is no wonder they can offer unlimited data. It takes all day to search for one thing on Google. I sent an email to their customer service complaining about the speeds. Once written, it only took a half hour to send it. They don’t care.
The local grocery store here, the Exuma Market is disgusting (Cindy made me tone this down). I swear they haven’t mopped the floor in 30 years. If this were located in a country with health codes, this store would have been shuttered. If you want to pay for your super expensive overpriced groceries with a credit card they charge you a 5% premium. They run out of food during the week and we are often forced to return 3 or 4 times to buy something as simple as chicken breasts. We tried for 4 days straight to buy oranges and bananas. After the supply ship arrives they have enough fresh veggies to last about 3 days. Why not order more? Who knows? We have to examine the expiration date of everything we add to the cart. The stocking staff does not rotate the product on the shelf. First in and last out is the stocking system. We watched a staff member dump a box of fresh potatoes on top of old potatoes and never even made an effort to remove the rotting ones from the previous supply. The sad thing is this store remains busy most of the time because choices are limited. So, they don’t care.
We have since found another grocery store about a 10 minute walk away called Shop-Rite. They have lower prices. This is where the locals tend to shop. We found orange juice was three dollars less per bottle. Yes, you read that correctly. The Exuma Market has a massive mark up on OJ. Why? Because Americans buy it. Shop-Rite also doesn’t charge the surcharge to use a credit card. So, we spent more money there and shop there first. We have to carry our groceries a little further but it’s worth it. The Exuma Market maintains the free dinghy landing behind their store. They maintain it about as well as they clean their store. We do not feel the least bit guilty about using their dock and shopping elsewhere.
Walking down the street (there are no sidewalks) here feels like a third world country. Most of the buildings are in disrepair and could use a coat of paint. There is no landscaping or pride in the appearance of the stores or the town for that matter. It is just hard for me to handle this sometimes. I have always been of the mind set; if you are going to do something then do it well. They don’t care.
On the brighter side; there is a decent meat market about 3 miles away. It is a business where the owner works the counter and takes pride in his product. It is just a little bit too far to walk there and back. Twice a week, they pick up cruising sailors from the dinghy dock and transport them in the back of a pickup truck to the store. A cab ride there is $30 round trip. Yes, $30 for 6 miles. And yes, the ride is in the back of a pickup truck.
The service at most of the restaurants is appalling. We have basically given up on any expectation of good service. Most of the restaurants add a 15% gratuity to the bill (we think this might be a tourist surcharge). So, there is no incentive for the wait staff to hustle. They don’t care. And, while we are on the subject of restaurants, the Bahamas is not well known for any type of fine cuisine. I am reminded about the scene in Forest Gump where Bubba Blue drones on and on about the different way to cook shrimp:
“Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich…”
Well, substitute conch for shrimp and you will have the menu offered in every Bahamian restaurant. I don’t like conch. Hence, I often am limited to one or two choices on the menu. I usually settle for a burger. I need to clarify this. A burger made of beef, not a conch burger. It is usually a frozen beef patty with little more than lettuce and tomato offered.
Yeah, I know. I sound like a bellyaching brat or like a person complaining the butler ran the bath too cold. But, sometimes I just need to vent. So, to make myself feel better, I’m going to dive off the back of the boat into the clear waters and take a nice cooling swim in the lukewarm water. Then, I might treat myself to a rum drink (with Shop-Rite orange juice) as I bask in the warm sun for a while. Then, I think I’ll read a little. I’ll watch the sun set and call it a day.
After writing the above, I went for a swim off the back of Cream Puff. Out of boredom, I grabbed a snorkel and mask. I figured I would look around under the boat. There is often fish hanging out there in the shade. Sure enough, I saw about 20 or 30 little yellow fish. As I was swimming around the boat looking at the anchor, a dolphin came up from behind me and swam between my legs. It scared the bejesus out of me. For a split second I thought it was a shark. Then as if to say, ha ha I got you, the dolphin rolled over on its back and looked at me. It turned out this playful little critter was one of four in a pod. They all turned out to be equally mischievous. For the next 30 minutes I swam and played with them. Some people from Sweden were anchored near us. They observed the spectacle, quickly put on fins, snorkels,masks and jumped into the water and played. The dolphins didn’t disappoint. Cindy was swimming without a mask and could only see some of the activity. I tossed her my mask and snorkel just in time for her to see all four dolphins swim under her. They then played under the keel of the boat for a little while. This was one of the most incredible experiences we have had since setting out on our adventure. By the time I thought to get the camera, they decided enough fun with us and looked for mischief elsewhere. We got only a couple of pictures and they took off. We may not have gotten lots of pictures but we have a memory that will last a lifetime.
Yesterday, we were invited by some Canadian friends we have recently met for a drink at the Chat n Chill beach bar. We spent a wonderful lazy afternoon sitting at a picnic table in the shade sipping Bahamian beers. I walked over to see if the stingrays were hanging about at the beach. The Conch salad stand tosses scraps in the water throughout the day making this a favorite feeding spot for rays. Sure enough! The rays were there. The proprietor of the Conch Salad stand was getting ready to close shop for the day and offered us scraps to feed to the rays. Rays do not have any teeth. They are bottom feeders and get their food by sucking in mouthfuls of sand and filtering out little critters to eat, dead fish, and so on. They have an incredible sense of smell and the moment I put my hand with slimy smelly conch into the water, I was surround by 5 large rays. They are fairly dorsal creatures so long as they don’t get stepped upon. They have a stinger on their tail, hence the name stingray. They don’t use it unless they feel danger. Giving them food is not something they feel is threatening. It was a really funny feeling to try and find their mouth. They pushed up my arm and I could then feel the water moving over my fingers as the ray was sucking in water. I let go of the conch. Wow, another incredible experience!
Our life style consists of ups and downs. The downs tend to grind on us and the ups are really highpoints that carry us to the next destination. Our recent experiences trump anything downbeat and will do so for quite some time to come. It makes me wonder what is around the corner for us. Today is a good day to be nomads on the ocean…. a really good day.