West Bay

December 3 – December 5.

Taking a break in Clifton Park in West Bay.

The sounds of a Calypso crooner singing “Down on the Boardwalk” float over the bay and drift through the hatches. Night has fallen and we are tucked into the v-berth after eating a hot meal, a game of Quiddler, an evening cocktail, and watching our “stories” on the computer. We fall asleep peacefully as Blue Wing swings on her rode, rolling ever so slightly on calm water. Finally, we rest in the lee of a great big wave breaking land mass, New Providence.

Blue Wing is anchored in West Bay, about 15 miles from the Bahamian capitol, Nassau. It is really really nice here. Our trip across the Great Bahama Bank and through the North West Providence Channel was uncomfortable, a little scary, and somewhat nauseating. We ate little, slept little, and didn’t have any fun. Muscles I never knew I had ache from an iron grip on the helm. Mentally I’m soup.

There are not very many boats anchored here and the few that are don’t stay long. They pull in the afternoon and pull out at first light in the morning. No one goes ashore. Maybe they see all of the large homes that line the bay and are reminded of the slow slog down Florida’s ICW or maybe there is somewhere else they need to be in a hurry. Hurry in the Bahamas? Who knows. But for us, just south of all those big homes is a park that needs exploring, an island we have never stepped foot on, and to tell the truth, I’m not sure I want to go anywhere else ever again.

After an uneasy first afternoon and night (the waves were not yet cooperating with the wind) and a day of beaucoup repairs, pounding the rub rail back in, cleaning wires, replacing fuses, and devising ways to make sure the wires, fuses, and other electronic bits don’t take another salt water bath, we head out to do what we came to the Bahamas for, explore.

In the afternoon Jaws Beach at Clifton Heritage National Park is dotted with locals enjoying their lunch and a few tourist soaking up some of the Bahamian sun. We tie up the dink, Fever, and trek from the beach up to a road, past the ruins of slave quarters towards the visitor’s center. Upon arrival at the visitor’s center we learn a few things about the park. Firstly, there is a $2 entrance fee. We have brought no money. When we are in the Bahamas we visit so many places where there is no where to spend money, we kind of forget about the whole concept. We promise the attendant that we will bring the entry fee the next day and make a mental note to start keeping some cash in our going ashore bag. We also learn the 208 acre park was established to honor the different people who once occupied the area, the Lucayan Indians (forced into slavery and wiped out by disease brought by Europeans), the European and Loyalist plantation owners (who brought about their own demise through over working and destroying their fields), and the African slaves (freed by the crown in 1838). The park has many wide trails leading through dense coppice forest, past plantation ruins. An art installation sits a top cliffs over looking a deep harbor used for trading, days long past and, today, for docking gigantic ships delivering fuel to the island. There are picnic spots and informational panels about native flora, fauna, and habitats throughout the grounds.

Back at the boat that evening I’m cooking dinner below when I hear Greg, up top enjoying the waning of the day’s light, call out that he sees something passing over the island. A bright light shoots through the sky and separates leaving a smaller light trailing behind. I grab the tablet and get on the internet. A rocket, Falcon 9, has just been launched from Cape Canaveral. It is taking a telecommunications satellite into orbit, where it will serve the South Asia and Asia Pacific regions. Minutes later it is gone.

We visit the park one more day to pay our promise entrance fee, but then we have to go. Like that rocket we have somewhere else to be (although we travel a bit slower). The Exumas and other destinations south call us. So we batten everything down, secure our most important possessions, head out, and cross our fingers that we won’t have to pound the boat back together at our next stop.

Jaws Beach.

The African Village (Slave quarters) in Clifton Park. According to the brochure for the park, “William Wylly’s ‘Regulations’ for the operation of his plantations instructed that each married couple ‘is entitled to a well built house.’

Ruins of the Loyalist House. This home was built in 1785 by planter John Wood in the style of Savannah Georgia houses built in the 1700s.

A tanker sits out in the bay below the cliffs at Clifton Park.

Sacred Space in Clifton Park was created by Bahamian artists Antonius Roberts and Tyrone Ferguson. The figures carved out of tree trunks represent enslaved African women gazing towards home.

Close up of the carved figures of Sacred Space.

Path to the beach in Clifton Park.

The Johnson family ruins.

Clifton Park logo cut out.

Sun set over West Bay.

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