Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Various anchorages at Rum Cay, Bahamas

.7 nm
Wind: SE 5-10 knots
Latitude: 23°38.48’N
Longitude: 074°50.60’W
Maximum speed: 1.1 knots
Average speed: .6 knots

Our visit to Rum Cay was just as legendary as I had expected. This is the island for which the Gentleman’s Guide actually recommends going off the thornless path for. The dude does not do that lightly at all, forsooth. The thornless path--never losing easting for southing--is the cardinal law in the book. But Rum Cay is worth it, according to him.

We moved the boat to a shallower anchorage in the morning in order to get a shorter row to the dock, then rowed across in the sun. We pulled the dinghy up onto pillowy white sand, so soft that it was almost too soft, almost the consistency of the mud at the bottom of ponds, but tiny grains of sand that buried your foot up to the ankle. I scooped up a handful of it and showed Karl the tiny pink specks of conch shell and coral that make up the famous pink sand beaches of the Bahamas. He was not as impressed as I was with it on my first trip to the Bahamas on a mission trip when I was fourteen.

There was a phone booth right at the end of the dock that, astonishingly worked, so I was able to call my family and let them know I was alive and heading on, as Karl went for a swim off the dock with the boys hanging around there. I looked over my shoulder and I saw him leap off the ten-foot-high mailboat dock into the water with a blue splash. Everything on the island was bleached white by the sun, except for the shady spots beneath palm and pine and almond trees where people lounged. We walked down the street to “The Last Chance,” the local convenience store, and bought cold drinks--coconut water with jelly--and asked about water. They had a big cistern filled with rainwater, which at first they thought we wouldn’t want. Karl gave me a sip, though, and it was the best water I’ve tasted since we’ve gotten into the Bahamas. Rainwater is always the most delicious.

With our water problem and phone calls settled, we wandered down the street to Kaye’s Restaurant and Bar, run by Delores Wilson, the local grande dame. We walked in to find Delores sitting down, watching the Law and Order marathon on satellite television. We started chatting, and she mentioned that one of her fans had stopped working that day. Karl immediately went to work, asking for screwdrivers and tearing the thing apart.

He couldn’t fix the fan, but I think that won Delores over. She fed us Bahamian spiced land crab with a secret mashed pepper sauce and homemade sweet bread, food fit for kings. Then she invited us into her home to feel her air-conditioning and show us her photo album, where she has pictures of people from all over the world, celebrities and millionaires, signatures from Sidney Poitier and Mohammad Ali. She told us stories about her life, how she founded the Rum Cay branch of the party that fought for Bahamian independence, and then wrote a book called My Rum Cay Home about growing up on the island, a book that’s still used in the Bahamian school system. She was an amazing lady, an enchantress so hospitable that just being with her was enough to feel that you had been welcomed home. She’s been offered two million dollars for the land on which her home and restaurant sits on, but she didn’t have any desire to sell. “Where would I live?” she asked. “I can’t imagine living anywhere else, even on Rum Cay.”

Then we sat out in the sun with the local fishermen and divers, and watched the Rastas play pool with each other, and chatted about fish and diving and weather and life. It was, by far, the best day we’ve spent in the Bahamas. Everyone wanted us to stay, to come back the next day and try to fix more fans and catch land crabs and go hunting for the wild goats that live on the island. We had established together, though, that no matter what we were leaving tomorrow. So we will. We won’t get drawn in by another beautiful place, no matter how enchanting. We’ll keep plugging on, for both of our sakes.

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