Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Long Bay, Bahamas

0 nm
Wind: E 15-20 knots

Karl dragged me to shore today for our next mission imperative: water. We bought two new five gallon water jugs (marked “kerosene” on their exterior) in Georgetown, so we still have more aboard than we usually do, but we’ve learned the hard way that it’s always better to have too much than not enough. He’s made friends with a grizzled elderly gentleman named Herman who has a well about 300 yards from the beach--he’s the one who’s been freezing water for us. So we filled up our onboard water tank and carted all our empty jugs to shore, at least thirty gallons worth.

I hadn’t been to Herman’s house yet, and the walk there was a pleasant stroll under blossoming, brilliant flame trees, past the little Mission Baptist church whose steeple we can see from the boat, and down the road to the well. I always feel like I’m stepping back into the past when we go for water, like a woman in an ancient African village. I know, of course, that running water is one of the first measures of man’s progress, and I don’t mean to romanticize the Biblical-type poverty that forces people to draw their water at wells, but it really doesn’t seem so bad to me. We get good exercise, we meet interesting people, we impress people with our completely nonwestern sense of industry. I do love running water. I even love it on the boat. It drives me crazy when our tank runs empty and we have to draw our water from our unwieldy jugs. I always end up spilling half of it.

We met Herman’s wife and a couple of grandchildren, one an adorable little waif named Shadnay who kept telling us we were spilling our water. We talked about the benefits of well water to reverse-osmosis water. I prefer well water, water filtered by the earth than that filtered by electricity, in general, but Herman’s wife insisted that the town water was better. Then we began the slow process of dragging full jugs up the hill. Karl had the worst of it. He had filled his trail backpack with about ten gallons of water, and was carrying a five-gallon jug by hand. I, always one to bite off more than I can chew, took a five-gallon jug in each hand and began the slow struggle back to the dinghy.

I hadn’t noticed that we were going downhill on the way there, but it became increasingly obvious that every step was uphill on the way back. I lugged and lugged and struggled and put down my jugs and panted and rested (when out of sight of the house). Thank God for Herman, who effortlessly carted a single jug, and then came back and helped me with mine. The man is 75 years old if he’s a day, and he’s stronger than most men half his age. I guess I’m not yet up to the standards of African villagers. When I can balance my jug on my head, then we’ll talk.

We got back to the boat and took a sip of our nice, cold, refreshing water, only to discover--it’s brackish. Just slightly, just enough salt in it that you can taste it, but enough that it’s pretty far from refreshing. No wonder our ice has been melting so fast. Water with salt in it won’t freeze completely. Still, we’ll drink it. Brackish water will hydrate you, if slightly less than real fresh water. Some dude even crossed the Atlantic drinking nothing but salt water, just to prove it could be done, though it’s said he supplemented with an awful lot of fish moisture. We’re turning into real sea people now. We even drink salt.

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