Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Long Bay, Bahamas

0 nm
Wind: E-SE 10 knots

Yesterday’s festivities have delayed our departure yet again, something that should come as no surprise to the regular reader of this journal. When have we not been delayed by festivities? The tragic part is the beauty of the wind yesterday and today, the wind that lulls us into believing it will stay calm and beautiful forever, and whisk us gently south with its breath. It’s forecast to stay relatively calm and sailable through Friday, but we know from hard experience that that can change at any instant. The Gentleman’s Guide says “take the leading edge of the front and don’t delay,” and there’s always an uncertainty that nibbles at the end of my consciousness when we don’t do that. The end of this calm period could crumble into heavy, serious trades again, and we could be left here for another two weeks.

Still, though, we did nothing today, aside from sit and recuperate in the shade of our tarp, swim a little, fish a little, do exactly what anyone would do in a tropical paradise. I keep remembering my first visit to the Bahamas, when I was fourteen, on a mission trip. (For those not in the evangelical Christian subculture, a “mission trip” is a bizarre amalgam of tour group, socioeconomical development project, and evangelistic outreach.) Bahamians have asked me repeatedly if this visit is my first to their islands, and I answer that I was here once before, in Eleuthera. I wanted very much to visit Eleuthera during our cruise here, but it was not to be. People are impressed when I tell them that, though--many of them haven’t been to Eleuthera, famed as one of the most beautiful of the Bahamian isles.

Especially fascinating was meeting a young Bahamian diver named Nat who happened to be from Eleuthera. I rapidly did the math and guessed that we could have been in Eleuthera at the same time, that Nat could have been one of the primary students that my youth choir had presented with Christian concerts and puppet shows. Nat, however, was much older than he looked, as many Bahamians end up being. We’re forever meeting spry-looking Bahamians who look in their late thirties and turn out to be 78. It’s enough to make one believe that David Copperfield and Ponce de Leon were onto something with their Fountain of Youth crap, although my firm belief is that the Bahamian Fountain of Youth is a steady diet of barracuda and conch, coupled with vast quantities of sunlight, heat, and salt water.

It was a brush with my past, with weird echoes of the present, to think that I could actually meet someone I could have met back then. I’ve always had fond memories of that trip, though to me the culture shock was less the experience of the Bahamas than being surrounded by other American teenagers without my parents around. I was well acquainted with the tropics, with the vagaries of developing-world cities, and with being the wrong color in a foreign country. The Bahamas, though, had things that Thailand didn’t: the pink sand, for one. I didn’t believe it was really pink until on one of our beach excursions on the mission trip, where we took a day off and had a motorboat ride to an abandoned stretch of sand, complete with a huge pallet bonfire and a picnic. Our mission-trip leader picked up a handful of sand and showed me the little pink specks of coral hidden inside.

The pink gives the beaches here a luminous glow that even the beaches in Thailand don’t have (though far be it from me to malign Thai beaches, which I will go to my grave calling the most beautiful in the world. Still, the sand there, though a perfect white at the best beaches, has more of an ivory hue.) An acquaintance here in San Salvador said that the microorganisms of the coral in the sand are still alive, and that’s why it’s pink. If it was dead, it would lose its pinkness.

I love the sand, though. I love its color, I love how it feels against my feet, I love looking at it and touching it, even at dusk when sand fleas end up biting my ankles into a rash of welts. Karl is not as enchanted as am I, as usual, but he’s coming around.

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