March 15 – March 17.
Omar tells us ‘I have been giving island tours for years and this will be the biggest yet’. We are the first on the bus, sitting behind him so we will be able to hear everything. Parked here in the dirt road, by the trail head, near the northern dinghy beach, we chat with Omar until the rest of the cruisers arrive.
Omar spent most of his youth in Nassau and chose to come back to Long Island where he SCUBA dives, does police work, leads tours, plays Junkanoo drums, and represents the island in body building competitions. Omar is a friendly force of nature.
The rest of the sailors arrive. Most are participants of a rally race that brought part of the Georgetown party scene eastward for a few days. The group wants to learn more about the island, but also wants Long Islanders to remember we were here. This trip is a great deal for us. It is much easier to explore the isle by road than by boat. Two school buses are noisily loaded, and we’re off to see the attractions of southern Long Island.
On the way we learn some things about the local culture. Much of the land here is ‘Generational Land’ granted by the crown to Bahamian families 200 years ago. Many descendants of the original grantees have disputes among themselves about how the properties have been split up over the years. Suppose, like Omar, you come back to the island and put some money into restoring an old abandoned building. Be careful. Some of your long lost cousins may decide to lay claim to your improved property.
There may be family disagreements here, but there is little crime. The last big crime was a bank robbery during regatta some years back. This being an island, the robber fled by boat. Our very own Omar selected the finest vessel in the harbor, commandeered it in the name of the Queen, chased down the perp, and brought him to justice.
The only real crime these days is Drunk and Disorderly. We ride past the police chief’s house. At 10:00 AM his car is still in the yard. We pass an old unused jail. The last prisoner there sobered up, poked a hole in the roof, climbed out, and rode his bike home.
The tour takes us through communities with family names: Piners, Pratts, Bowers, Grays. We see old churches, Dean’s Blue Hole, and Clarencetown. Our bus stops back by a tiki bar. The other bus driver is persuaded to stop at a liquor store.
The tour ends early enough to allow everyone to freshen up back at their boats before happy hour at Island Breeze. Not us. Our boat is too far away. Instead we chat with new arrivals Eric and Gale, whom we met at Farmer’s Cay. We also learn more about lobster fishing from resident Danny Knowles. Then it’s time for the Friday night happy hour jam session.
The jam is a blast. The sun sets. The cleverly arranged songs have all been performed. The free diving kids we saw practicing earlier at Dean’s Blue Hole have brought up the lyrics for ‘Boy Named Sue’ on a laptop and belt the song out as Ken and I accompany them. It’s probably time to go.
We leave the instruments and start the long walk home. A few cars pass and one turns back to pick us up. James and Sherry of Whale Head Point (and Alabama) drop us off at the trail head to dinghy beach and we promise to look them up when we come back next season.
Saturday is volunteer work day for the hurricane damaged regatta center. By late morning Duwan and I gather our tools and make our way back south. We pick up the instruments, walk over to the center and start work. We clean up, scrape paint, hammer nails and paint roof joists as a new metal roof is put on.
Around noon beers are passed out. Everyone gets to know his work buddies a little better. I’m working with John, who lives up by dinghy beach, and with the island’s patriarch of wooden race boat building. He’s seventy-five years old but looks about forty.
Many of the sailors in the rally group are having a race this afternoon. There will be a big awards ceremony with a Junkanoo band. We just can’t have another late night, though.
Mid-afternoon we gather our stuff and start the hike back toward the boat. We don’t get far before another worker stops to give us a ride. He takes us as far as Sou’ Side. As he drops us off he yells to Tyrone that we’ve worked hard and deserve a beer.
Just after leaving Sou’ Side we run into our buddies Don and Patty from Silents Wings. After a little arm twisting they take us right back to the stools we just left. We barely make it back to the boat by dark.
On Sunday we wake at the crack of ten to a much emptier harbor. Everyone has left for choice anchorages at Hog Cay and Calabash Bay. We manage to sail ten miles to a rolly anchorage at Simms. We rest up from the big weekend resolving to come back next year and hitchhike up and down the isle until we know everyone here. Tomorrow we head for Conception.