Calumet Dreams
Chapter 17

February 22 - March 10
Arriving at Andros Island * Hitchhiking to Nicholl's Town * Spelunking at Henry Morgan's Cave * New Providence Island * The Big Blow in Allen's Cay * Iguanas and Tame Birds * Little Farmer's Cay * Lots of Conch * Private Islands Back to Home Page

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Day 216 - Thursday, February 22
The Grand Bahama Bank, halfway between Bimini and the Berry Islands
N 25' 33.2" W 78' 55.6"

Being in Bimini is a pleasure. We certainly could have kept ourselves happily entertained for many more days, but we are anxious to get to Georgetown and the weather today is very favorable for our next big crossing. We are going to Chub Cay at the southern end of the Berry Islands. It is 80 miles away and it will take us two days to get there. (Note: Cay is always pronounced 'key'.)

We will be crossing the Grand Bahama Bank, that wide expanse between the islands where the water is only ten feet deep. It is actually a large plateau under the water. The water is shallow enough that we can just drop an anchor for the night whenever we want to get some rest. There are shipping channels marked on the map which are the shortest paths from island to island. We will follow these, and move out of them when it is time to anchor.

We had some coconut rolls for breakfast that I had bought at the Straw Market. They looked like hot dog buns, but they were actually little jelly rolls made of sweet bread dough and a filling of cinnamon and coconut. After eating them, we wished we had bought more. When breakfast was finished we untied our anchor rope from the buried chain and said "good-bye" to Bimini.

We all stood atop the boat again to watch for shoals until we got past the hazard zones and out into the Bank. Out there Tricia felt compelled to take a picture of the horizon just because there were so many spectacular shades of blue around us -turquoise water near us, navy blue out in the deep and sky blue above us. I doubt the camera can capture the beauty of the scene, but we had to try.


Beautiful Bimini Blues - Water and Sky
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Corals, sponges and conch shell
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We put up our sails to give us a little extra boost from the light winds. Tricia went below to her haven, put on her headphones and started reading. She told us to let her know when we got there.

Zion put out his trolling line and gave me a hand line. We were hoping to catch a big one. He had bought some extra fishing gear in Bimini so we could troll with more than one line. He kept changing lures, hoping to find the one that would attract the fish. My strategy was simply to keep my line in the water as much as possible to increase my chances of crossing the path of a hungry fish. Zion and I kept our lines in the water all day, but we didn't even get a nibble. I'm not surprised, though, because we could see through the water to the sea bottom all day and there wasn't much down there. It was like a desert of sand and rocks. There was an occasional stalk of algae but not enough to sustain much life in the food chain. The water was so clear that you could actually see the changing wave patterns in the sand ten feet below. Without any plants or small animals, I doubt there were fish around for all those many miles.


Tricia at Sea
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Captain and First Mate Fishing
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Right before sunset we took down the sails and dropped our anchor. The wind was calm and the seas were gentle so we settled in for the night.


Sunset on the Grand Bahama Banks
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Day 217 - Friday, February 23
Morgan's Bluff, near Nicholl Town on Andros Island, The Bahamas
N 25' 33.2" W 78' 55.6"

About midnight Dan and I woke up because the boat was bouncing pretty good. The water wasn't very choppy, but there was a current hitting us from the side that gave us an uncomfortable wobble. Whenever the current and the wind are at odds with each other the boat bounces around more than usual. I knew I wouldn't be able to fall asleep, so I told Dan I would sit up and keep watch with the autopilot if he pulled the anchors. That way we would get to our destination sooner.

He got up and pulled the anchors by flashlight, which was quite a feat by himself because we were double anchored off of the front. He had to pull one in a little way, tie it off, then move to the other hull and pull in the other one a bit. Eventually he got them up, then he set the autopilot on our course and went back to bed. All I had to do was look around the inky blackness every fifteen minutes and make sure I couldn't see any lights out there. Then I had to look at the GPS and make sure we were still heading in the right direction. Not very hard. There was a good light in the cockpit, so I sat down and read a novel and checked things out between every chapter.

About 4:00 in the morning I spotted a cluster of lights on the horizon. I was also getting sleepy, so Dan took over on watch and I went to bed. It turns out that the lights were from a group of sailboats that had anchored near each other for the night. One was even in the channel and Dan had to steer around him.


Zion's Mutton Snapper fish
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

When I got up at 8:30, Zion was already fishing. The sea bottom looked different now. At first, there was a little more algae and an occasional starfish. Eventually, the algae thickened on the floor and sponges and small fish could be spotted. And then, to our delight, Zion snagged something on his trolling line. You could see it making a small wake behind the boat. He hauled it in and found he had caught a big, beautiful red snapper. Now Dan had the chore of filleting it while Zion and I sat on the side of the boat and watched the fascinating sea floor as we went past. It was like seeing an aquarium pass before your eyes for miles and miles.

There were several boats out along the channel this morning. They all seemed to be headed in the same direction we were, towards Chub Cay in the Berry Islands. Dan noticed one catamaran ahead of us that suddenly turned right. He looked at his charts to figure out where he might be going and noticed that he had turned south to Andros Island. We were planning to go to Andros after Chub Cay, using Chub Cay as a resting point in our voyage. But Dan did the calculations, and from where we were it was 11 miles to Chub Cay and only 17 miles to Andros Island. Since it was such a beautiful day with extremely calm waters, we decided to make the turn and get to Andros Island sooner. That would eliminate another crossing for us, and there was nothing particular on Chub Cay that we wanted to see. Our main goal is to find other teenagers, and everyone tells us that they are down in Georgetown on Exuma Island.

Our new route takes us over the Tongue of the Ocean, a narrow channel that runs through the islands, where the water is thousands of feet deep. It's so deep that the U.S. and British navies use the area for testing their submarines. As we went from the shallow Bank to the deep Tongue, Zion kept a close watch on the clear bottom of the sea. He could see it all of the way up to seventy feet! When we came out of it again an hour later, he could see the bottom at sixty feet.

About noon we could see Andros Island ahead. Andros is the largest island in the Bahamas, but it is also the least developed. It has very little tourist activity so there are no big towns or straw markets. It does have an abundance of fresh water so this is the agricultural center of The Bahamas. Along the eastern side of the island is a long barrier reef, the third largest barrier reef in the world. Divers like to visit Andros because of it.


Nassau waterboat filling up at Andros
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Our destination was a small harbor at Morgan's Bluff at the north end of the island. Morgan's Bluff was named after the pirate, Henry Morgan. A big boat was entering the harbor in front of us. It pulled up to the dock and started attaching itself to big pipes to fill up with water. We learned that this is the water boat. It comes from nearby New Providence island twice a day to get fresh water for the capital city of Nassau. Can you imagine having a city of 170,000 people on an island with no fresh water? Amazing.

Inside the big harbor was a narrow inlet to a small, deep, man-made harbor. There were a few medium-sized boats at a small working dock, and a few sailboats moored on the opposite side. All was calm and peaceful, surrounded by pine forest and a light blue building called "Willy's Water Hole". There was a short stretch of sea wall where we pulled up to get some information. Two men on shore watched us come in and helped us dock. Dan went and talked to Willy and found out that there was plenty of fresh water on the working dock, and we could anchor next to the other sailboats, and all of it was free. A good example of Economics 101 - low demand and low prices.


Getting Water at Morgan's Bluff
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We were low on water, so our first stop was the working dock. We had to pull alongside another boat that was already there because the dock was full. The boat had a few men working on it, hauling sheets of plywood out of the hold and into a waiting pick-up truck. They were happy to help us dock and get our hoses hooked up to the water. I pulled out the camera to get a picture of this unusual scene. Our hose was running across their big rusty work boat and it didn't seem like we would be in a situation like this ever again. After we snapped the shot, one of the men teased and said the water was free but we had to pay for the picture. We compromised and took some pictures of them. They had fun seeing themselves in the screen of our digital camera. They each wanted to pose, trying to look as tough and masculine as possible. We also used the opportunity to show them the picture of Zion's fish. They said it was a mutton fish since we caught it in shallow waters. Red snappers live in the deep waters.


Andros Boatmen
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Andros Boatmen posing for the camera
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After getting our water we went over to the mooring area. We had to do a med moor, shorthand for a Mediterranean mooring, which means that you drop an anchor then back up towards the shore. Then you tie some lines from the back of your boat to the shore. It's a tricky maneuver, especially since this was the first time we had done it backing in. Willy was on shore as dockmaster and helped us through it. He looked very nautical in his white pants and shirt and white captain's hat. He had us put out four lines, and we nearly ran out of rope. Two made an 'X' from the back of the boat to shore, and two longer ones ran from the front of our boat to shore. The shore was six feet of sloping rocks, with a line of small pine trees across the top. All of our ropes were tied off to the pine trees.


Sealink - large fast catamaran for passengers and cars
(Click on picture for more detailed view)


Sealink - large fast catamaran for passengers and cars
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

Once we were settled, we took showers and naps and woke just in time to have fish nuggets and mashed potatoes for supper. The mutton fish was delicious.

Day 218 - Saturday, February 24
Morgan's Bluff near Nicholl Town, Andros Island, The Bahamas
N 25' 10.5" W 78' 01.7"

Today we were ready to go see the town. Unfortunately, we found out that it was four miles away. The Canadian couple in Resolute, the sailboat next to ours, told us that if we started walking we would probably get a ride from someone passing by. So, we started out.


Tricia gives Mom a new 'do
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It was sunny, very hot and dusty and an occasional car whizzed by us at high speeds, usually in the opposite direction. Most of them were too small to hold four extra people. After two miles we reached a cross roads. We found the pink Administration Building with the police department and the post office and mailed some letters. Next we passed the high school, which was a series of long, low buildings stretched out around a courtyard. It seems that the town is very spread out, because it was still another two miles to town even though there weren't any houses around. We stopped at a gas station to get some cold drinks, then a woman in a pick-up offered to give us a ride to town. Tricia and I sat in front with her while Dan and Zion climbed into the back with her baskets of laundry. She told us that she worked for the Ministry of Works. It was her job to cut all of the grass along the edges of the roads. This was a year-round job, although she said the grass grew more slowly in the cold months of November and December. But she said she hates the cold in those months and could never live in Wisconsin. Her skin gets dry and chapped in the island winters.

She dropped us off in the center of Nicholl Town. We were at a little intersection between four small houses. The laundromat was nearby, so we checked it out and found it had a couple machines and it only cost $1.00 a load. There were some industrial sized washers in the back room, but they were all rusted shut. We sat on the front stoop while Dan made a phone call on the public BaTelCo phone, and we watched the rooster and chickens strut around the beautiful flowering shrubs of the house across the street. Next we walked a block to the beach. We could see the reef just offshore a bit. There were a few children on the beach playing and fishing. Tricia and I rested in the shade on the beach while Dan and Zion checked out the nearby churches. There was one Anglican and one Baptist.

As we strolled back through town we saw a small building on top of a little hill. It had a freshly painted sign saying "Library". It looked like it was locked, but we tried the front door and it opened. Inside the little room was a table full of women's shoes, and several big boxes of clothes, the kind you would expect to see being delivered to Goodwill. There were also two small bookshelves full of books, some for children and some for adults. All in all, though, I think they had fewer books in their library than we have on our boat.

We decided to look for a grocery store and found out that the nearest one was two miles outside of town, back by the high school. Tricia stuck out her thumb and a pick-up stopped for us on her first try. She got a kick out of that. We hopped in the back and were taken to the grocery store.

It was bigger than I expected. I took some time to scan what they had on all of their shelves and check out the prices. In general, they had everything you would need, but only one kind of each. For example, they had lots and lots of cornflakes, but no other kind of breakfast cereal. Their canned goods were expensive; $2.36 for a can of peaches. Paper products were high, too; 75 cents for a roll of toilet paper. But some things were cheaper here than in the states. Cans of corned beef and sausage from Denmark was cheap, and so was the sugar. After scanning the aisles I went to the freezer section. Actually, it was just one large chest freezer. It was full of different kinds of meat. We pulled out some hot dogs and a pack of six pork chops that only cost $4. There was a series of four refrigerated cases with the doors propped shut with large water bottles. Inside I found eggs and cheese and all of the regular fruits and vegetables that I buy - apples, celery, lettuce, green peppers. carrots, and cabbage.

The check-out lady sat at a table and entered the prices that the check-out boy read to her. We wanted some bread, but they didn't have any. To get bread you have to go to Angie's house up on the hill. She bakes it in her kitchen. Unfortunately, houses don't have house numbers in this town. The friendly grocery boy pointed us in the right direction and told us we couldn't miss it. While we were wandering along the wooded path toward a group of houses, we passed a field of onions. They were full-grown and beautiful, ready to be harvested. There wasn't a weed in the field. But most amazing, the soil was so rocky it looked more like freshly crushed gravel than any kind of dirt I've ever seen. Next to the onion field was a field of peppers.

As we were wondering which path we should take to get to Angie's house, the grocery boy came running back to aid us. I guess he realized we didn't have a chance on our own. How he could run so easily in that heat is beyond me. He took us right up to the house and we knew we were in the right place when we caught a whiff of that wonderful aroma of fresh-baked bread.

We knocked on Angie's door, and a voice from deep inside said "Come in". We entered an elegant living room with a checker tiled floor. There was a six piece set of couches, all upholstered in white and covered with vinyl protectors. One corner piece held a collection of china pieces. Angie was in the kitchen at the back. She had one of those large multi-level baker racks filled with cooled, bagged bread, plus she had warm loaves cooling on the counter and new loaves rising in pans. The industrial sized oven was baking a big batch and keeping the kitchen toasty. The bread was $2 a loaf and we bought four loaves. We ate one up as soon as we got home.

With all of our grocery shopping done, we headed back to the boat. Tricia stuck out her thumb again and got us another ride. This time our driver was a manager from a local construction company. He was on his way to check over the work being done by a road crew. He talked about the proposals his company made to build a big garbage dump for the area. He went to college in Washington, D.C. and he said that weather in the States is too cold for his blood. I asked him what his major was, and with a little laugh he said "Hotel Management".

He took us to our boat and we rested.

Day 219 - Sunday, February 25
Morgan's Bluff near Nicholl Town, Andros Island, The Bahamas
N 25' 10.5" W 78' 01.7"

We wanted to visit one of the churches this morning, but we had gotten so many conflicting reports on what time services were and the four-mile hike was a bit daunting, so we stayed put for the day.


Regatta Park at Morgan's Bluff
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Another picture of the park
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Our little harbor was right next to the island's fairgrounds and a pretty crescent beach. The fairgrounds consist of a large group of brightly painted booths with walls and roofs covered with palmetto branches. The booths are used in July for the Sailing Regatta celebration. There was a band shell and a dance floor with a bar, all empty now. Some of the booths had permanent signs up. One gave a menu - Conch Salad, Crawfish Salad, Lobster Salad and Fry Fish, also ice and soda. Conch salad is sliced conch marinated with diced onions and green pepper in lime juice. It's very popular down here.


Local food stand at Regatta Park
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Every island has their own sailing regatta. Native Bahamian sail boats come from all of the other islands to compete for honor and glory. We hear there is a lot of rivalry and home time pride in these sailing races.


Warhammer in the sand
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Zion and Tricia built a maze in the sand for their war games. Zion picked up some extra dice in Bimini so now they can play it the correct way, with ten dice. They also started digging around a buried line and uncovered a tire. Zion has his trusty foldable Army shovel that works great in the sand. I went swimming in the warm water.


Digging for treasure at Morgan's Bluff
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

There were a few other local families swimming at the beach. A little girl, about five years old, came up to touch Dan's beard. "You look like Jesus" she said.

In the evening there were lots of people gathering at Willy's Watering Hole. A group of teenage boys wandered over and started talking with Dan who was in the cockpit. They were asking for money. We said we didn't have any extra, but we threw a can of cola to each of them. Then Tricia stepped out and they all started hissing. Hissing is the Bahamian version of a man whistling at a pretty girl. We said she couldn't go out with them, but we would take a picture of them with her. It was a lot of fun, and good for Tricia's ego.


Tricia and local friends
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We were surprised to learn that Sunday night is the big night out here on the islands. Willy's Water Hole was filled with people and we could hear the loud island music playing until 1:00 a.m. The most popular song in the islands these days is "Shake It Up". After the music stopped, we even heard a few gun shots, but soon everyone went home.

Day 220 - Monday, February 26
Morgan's Bluff near Nicholl Town, Andros Island, The Bahamas
N 25' 10.5" W 78' 01.7"

Zion scavenged the beach today to find materials to make some model sailboats. The beach is covered with all kinds of junk that floats in from the ocean. It's a shame to see the garbage mess up the natural beauty of the area, but I'm sure the locals get tired of cleaning it up. It's not even their garbage. Zion found some big pieces of wood and styrofoam and made some small wooden boats with firm styrofoam sails.


Abandoned Boat
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In the afternoon we took a walk over to the other side of the cove. At the edge of the cove was an old abandoned boat. It was a fifty-foot long cruising boat. The kids had already checked it over thoroughly and had discovered a log book from the 1970's. The lower deck was filled with water during high tide, but it was low tide now so Tricia bravely led me through the knee-deep water to check out all of the rooms. We found staterooms and the old galley and the old head. It felt like a scene from the movie "Titanic". Dan and Zion scavenged some boat parts. We learned that the boat had been abandoned when the Bahamian Guard had arrested the owners for smuggling Haitians into the country.


Giant Tortoise Shell
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

Next to the boat we found the shell of a giant sea turtle lying in the surf. A Bahamian woman in a nearby fishing boat was washing it out in the waves. Her brother had caught it while diving. It had been a 200 pound turtle, giving her 120 pounds of turtle meat to sell. The shell still had some body parts clinging to it, and it had quite an aroma. That's why it was sitting in the surf. The wave action washes it clean in a day or two.

Dan talked to the fisherwoman about the nearby cave that we were going to see. It was called Henry Morgan's Cave. Supposedly the pirate had hung out there (and buried treasure?), but now it was a little town park. The woman said that there were even bigger caves nearby in the woods. She would send her girls down to show us where those bigger caves were.


Cave at Morgan's Bluff
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

Our family went to see Henry Morgan's hang-out, and it was a nice, big cave. It reminded us of the limestone caves we saw in Alton, Illinois and back home at Ledgeview Nature Center.

After we left the cave we walked along the road looking for the girls. Soon a car came by with eight kids inside. Half of them were sitting on the open windows in the back, probably because there wasn't enough room inside for everyone. They piled out and we had our tour guides for the unmarked caves.

Five of the girls were near Tricia's age, and then there were three younger children, too. We walked up the hill to a group of colorful ranch homes where they recruited two teenage boys to come along. They led us through some dense woods to a hole in the ground. If you shimmied down the hole, you found yourself in a big cave. Some trees were rooted in the bottom of the cave and growing up through the hole above.


Secret Cave on Morgan's Bluff
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

We took our flashlights and went single file through some dark passages where you had to stoop and crawl to get through at times. We came back to our starting point, and then the kids found a small tunnel at the back of the cave. Zion and one of the older boys crawled in on their bellies and then we couldn't see or hear them anymore. Eventually they found their way out through another opening to the surface, and then came back. Of course, all of the other kids wanted to give it a try, too. Dan even went along. I stayed back with the little ones. They were gone a long time. It's spooky when you call and call for them, and they can't hear you.


Our tourguides thru the secret cave
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

When they finally made their way back, they were covered with sweat. Up in Wisconsin, the caves are always a nice cool 48 degrees, our average year-round temperature. Well, down here the average year-round temperature is in the eighties, and the caves are not cool.


Zion the Spelunker
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

The teenage boys went back home after our spelunking adventure, but the girls walked with us back to our boat. We invited them on board, and they enjoyed seeing the inside of our boat. They had never been on a cruising catamaran before. Then, to our surprise, they all went into Tricia's room with her and stayed there for awhile. We're not sure how seven girls all fit into that little cubby hole, but they did, and they had a great time looking at her pop star magazines. Tricia gave them all pictures of Justin Timberlake to take back home, and I gave them a bag of Hershey's kisses to thank them for being our tour guides. Soon it was getting dark so they all walked back home.

Day 221 - Tuesday, February 27
Morgan's Bluff near Nicholl Town, Andros Island, The Bahamas
N 25' 10.5" W 78' 01.7"

Our mission today was to do e-mail. We decided that it would be easier for two people to get rides than all four of us, so Dan and Tricia took off down the road with their thumbs out.


Andros High School Courtyard
(Click on picture for more detailed view)


Andros High School Courtyard
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

Their destination was the high school. They met the computer teacher there and learned that they could use Internet for a small fee. Then Dan helped the teacher with some web programming.


Mr. Pindle, Computer Teacher at Andros High School
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

Tricia did her e-mail and when school was out she met her friends. She rode the bus with them and spent some time at their homes near our boat. The bus was more like a van, and it stopped to pick-up everyone it passed who was walking along the road.

The computer teacher gave Dan a ride back to our boat, then we gave him a tour of our catamaran.

Day 222 - Wednesday, February 28
Morgan's Bluff near Nicholl Town, Andros Island, The Bahamas
N 25' 10.5" W 78' 01.7"

Our dirty laundry was piling up, the laundromat was four hot dusty miles away and we had a hose on our boat hooked up to fresh water, so it seemed that this was our big chance to attempt laundry by hand for the first time.

I had a magazine article from a cruising magazine that gave good instructions. Soak with detergent, rinse, soak again, rinse again. They say that long soaks of several hours get the dirt out with less scrubbing. Sounds good to me.


Laundry Day on the Boat
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

I put our dirty clothes into the four largest buckets and storage bins that I could find and added fresh water and detergent. Then I called the family together for the scrubbing phase. Each of us took a bucket and agitated it for fifteen minutes. Sometimes stomping with our feet worked just as well as rubbing with our hands. After a long soak in the suds, we poured the water out through the nets on our front deck and did some rinsing. We poured that out then did another sudsy-soak-agitation cycle.

By this time it was noon and Dan and Tricia were getting ready to go into the high school again. They needed to do more Internet work and the teacher wanted to learn some more web programming.

Zion worked on his model boats until it was time for the final rinse cycle. We dumped out the soapy water and put in the rinse water. I added a bit of fabric softener and then I realized my mistake. The fabric softener made the water sudsy again, so there was no way to know if I was getting all the detergent suds out of the clothes or not. The article had stressed the importance of getting all the soap out in the final rinse or else the clothes would never really dry and would feel uncomfortable. We did our best and then I proceeded to wring each piece of clothes by hand while Zion strung up clothesline all over our boat.

The wringing process took awhile, giving Zion enough time to string a spiderweb of line over our boat. There was actually enough room for everything to get hung up. It didn't take long for the sun and wind to dry it all. It actually turned out clean and fresh-smelling with just a few extra wrinkles.

I talked to Lisa on Resolute about my fabric softener problem. She and her husband do their laundry on board every week, and they even conserve water in the process. I have to admit that during my clothes washing adventure I used the fresh water from the hose very liberally. She uses a three step process. Soak the clothes with detergent, rinse out the suds, then give another rinse in water with just a small bit of fabric softener (one thimbleful for two gallons of water). Her method makes more sense to me, so if I ever do laundry by hand again I will try it. I've also made a vow to never do so much laundry in a single day again. My wringer muscles were starting to wear out near the end.

Dan and Tricia got a ride back to the boat after school. Tricia's friends walked over in the early evening to let her hang out with them for awhile. They had to do homework first.

Day 223 - Thursday, March 1
Morgan's Bluff near Nicholl Town, Andros Island, The Bahamas
N 25' 10.5" W 78' 01.7"

We have decided to leave Andros Island soon and head across to the Exumas. We had been thinking about visiting Fresh Creek further south down Andros Island. They make beautiful Androsian batik fabric there and they give tours. But, there aren't many good anchorages there so we decided not to go. There are more good anchorages along the Exuma islands.

Before we leave, though, we want to try snorkeling along Andros' barrier reef. In the morning we put on our swimsuits and water shoes, packed up our snorkels, towels and water bottles, and headed out to the eastern shore of Andros Island.

Between here and Nicholls Town the eastern shore is edged with rocks and cliffs. The barrier reef is off shore a bit. The nearest way to the shore is to travel down the cliffs behind the houses where Tricia's friends live. A friendly man got us started on the right path, but I think the path was made for goats, not people. After a while it dwindled away and we chose our own path over the rocks.

These are the most unusual rocks that I've ever walked over. They are dark black and filled with holes and sharp points, almost like lace made out of rock. They look like lava that got hit by wild wave action as it cooled, but all of the books say that this is sedimentary rock called honeycomb limestone. The irregular surface comes from the wearing away of the rock. The rocks come to such sharp peaks around the many holes that as you walk your foot is only touching a few ridges. Walking barefoot on this stuff would be painful. There are thousands, probably millions, of pretty twisted conical snails hiding in all of the little holes.

We eventually got down to the shore, but it was so rocky and the waves were so big that it was not safe to go in the water. The waves would come crashing up through the latticework rock and go back down from one little pool to another. We continued walking south to Nicholl's Town hoping to find a beach where we could swim out to the reef.

Well, the beach never came and the waves just got wilder. We eventually decided to turn around and head back without snorkeling along the reef. But we did find some great salvage items. Dan and Zion had been looking for some really heavy weights that they could hang from our anchor line. The weights would keep the line held down so it wouldn't catch the ladder on the side of our boat if the wind and the current weren't in the same direction. They had been thinking about filling a bucket with concrete. But here on the beach they found their answer. A giant rusty tank, about ten feet in diameter, had washed up onto the rocky shore and gotten stuck. There were some hefty D- rings attached to the end of the tank. One of them had a 17-ton load limit. Zion worked and worked at the weakest link until finally the rings came off. They weighed about fifty pounds altogether. Then he and Dan had to drag them back up the side of the cliff over all of the rocks and then pull them to the edge of the cove. Did I mention that they did all this in the afternoon heat? Zion brought the dinghy over to the cove, then rowed his treasure back to the boat. I'm happy to report that the effort was worth it. They work great and keep our anchor line lying down on the bottom of the sea floor.


Willy's Water Hole (Our Starboard View)
(Click on picture for more detailed view)

We spent our last afternoon filling our tanks with good Andros water and getting ready for leaving in the morning. It was also our last chance to hear the men playing dominoes at Willy's Water Hole.


Pratt Sister's Sailboat (Our Port View)
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Every afternoon, and sometimes in the morning and evening, too, men would gather on the tarp-covered porch outside of Willy's and play dominoes. Believe it or not, dominoes is a very loud game. First, there is the slapping down of the dominoes on the loose, metal-topped tables. Second, there is the excited taunting, bragging and cussing that goes along with the play. We really got a kick out of listening to their games, although we couldn't understand much of what they were saying except the oft-repeated F-word. Their enthusiasm reminded me of a good game of sheephead back home.

Day 224 - Friday, March 2
West Bay, New Providence Island, The Bahamas
N 25' 01.2" W 77' 32.9"

The crossing from Andros to Exuma is a long one, so we decided to take it in two easy pieces and stop for the night on the western end of New Providence Island. The big city of Nassau is on the northern shore of New Providence, but we were going to pass on the south side.


Leaving Morgan's Bluff
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Crew checking for sandbars
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Zion's sailboats floating out to sea
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The waves and wind were medium for our journey, and the waters were beautiful (as usual). About three o'clock in the afternoon we anchored in West Bay. We jumped off the boat and did some snorkeling in the shallow waters. We saw some more big red starfish. Zion found another giant hermit crab inside of an old conch shell. It was just like the one we had found in Bimini. Just as I was wondering if it was edible or not, he accidentally dropped the conch shell it was hiding in. The shell landed on top of the crab's claw and crushed it. A few seconds later the claw fell off, just like the crab had decided to let it go because it hurt too much. We put the crab and his conch home back in the water and I took his claw back to the boat to cook for dinner. They say that the best meat is in the claw, and this was a big one. It actually tasted pretty good.

Dan met a local electrical contractor on shore and had a nice conversation with him. He learned that New Providence Island is having a difficult time with drugs. Many of their young people are making a living by smuggling drugs into the United States. Since this is so lucrative, it's hard to find skilled workers for other jobs. This man has two jobs. Besides his electrical business, he also makes cowbells for the annual Junkanoo celebration.

Junkanoo is a unique Bahamian festival that happens twice a year, on the day after Christmas and on New Year's. At three o'clock in the morning, residents parade around in wild costumes, dancing, and making as much noise as possible. Drums, cowbells and horns are all popular. Junkanoo is a bit like Mardi Gras in that different groups compete against each other to create the best new costume, dance or music. I would love to see it someday.

Dan also learned that the native Bahamians have a special name for all of us visiting white folk. They call us Conchy Joes. (Conch is pronounced 'konk').

Day 225 - Saturday, March 3
Allen's Cay, Exuma Islands, The Bahamas
N 24' 45.0" W 76' 50.2"

We spent the day travelling across the water. The wind was brisk and we were able to sail at a good speed. The waves were two to four feet giving us a bouncy ride. We had no choice but to go on, though, because the anchorage at West Bay wasn't protected from these westerly waves and the anchorage at our destination, Allen Cay, would be. Allen Cay is the northernmost anchorage in the Exuma Islands. The Exumas are a long chain of narrow islands that provide great sailing, snorkeling and anchorages all of the way down to Georgetown.

In the middle of the sunny afternoon, just when Captain Dan was having a really great time riding the bucking waves and shouting "Yahoo!", a particularly large wave hit us in the back. Suddenly our starboard rudder broke off. Dan managed to save it and pull it up onto the boat. At first we thought it must have hit something, but we were in such deep water that didn't seem likely. When we looked at the rudder more closely, we saw that the problem was metal fatigue. We saw hairline cracks in the pintles where seawater had gotten in and started rusting. The extra force of that big wave caused them to crack.

Good thing that our catamaran has two rudders, one on each hull. We were able to continue steering with our one good rudder. It worked well enough to get us to Allen's Cay.

We arrived at Allen's Cay in the late afternoon. It is a wonderful anchorage, a little hole of water surrounded by islands on every side. It is protected from wind and waves in every direction. There were about ten other boats already there, but still plenty of room for us. The water was calm and we were happy to settle in for a peaceful sleep.

Day 226 - Sunday, March 4
Allen's Cay, Exuma Islands, The Bahamas
N 24' 45.0" W 76' 50.2"

We are surrounded by islands, some small and some very small. The small islands are covered with green island foliage and the very small islands are just big rocks. They are all deserted. There aren't any people living here, but the larger islands are a wildlife refuge for a healthy population of native iquanas. We saw some of the funny creatures come out on the beach last night while some people were up there. They look like little cats with long tails from this distance.


Iguanas at Allen's Cay
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Today we went up to the beach to see them up close. They are curious things and they come up to check out anyone on their beach. They keep a distance of about five feet, but when you're not looking they will sneak up closer behind you. Some of them are big and fat and seem to rule the island. They keep the little ones out of their territory.


Friendly Bird
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We found a narrow path through the brush that led to the other side of the island. That side had another nice sand beach that faced the ocean. As we walked along the path we were startled to find singing birds in the bushes that weren't afraid of us at all. We could walk right up to them and look at them face-to-face and they wouldn't fly away. I remember reading that birds acted like this on Darwin's Galapagos Islands because they had never seen men before and were unafraid of them, but I never expected to find the same thing here. It was a wonderful treat.

On the ocean side we went snorkeling out around the rocky end of the island. It was the best snorkeling we've seen yet, full of colorful corals and fish.

Day 227 - Monday, March 5 - HAPPY 14TH BIRTHDAY ZION!
Allen's Cay, Exuma Islands, The Bahamas
N 24' 45.0" W 76' 50.2"

During the night some big winds started howling and the seas got bouncy even in our little cove. When we woke up, no one felt like getting out of bed or eating breakfast.


Zion's Birthday at Sea
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We did get up, though, to gather around the table for Zion's birthday. We sang him a song then he opened his presents. Tricia gave Zion a copy of Cracked magazine and some army men to use for his war gaming. It's a good thing that Tricia had the forethought to do some savvy shopping when we were in Miami Beach. Mom wasn't quite so together, so Zion got two certificates from Mom and Dad. One was for a pair of swim fins and the other was for a small, uninhabited island. We would let him be king for a day.


Tricia with live King Helmet Conch
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After opening gifts, everyone unanimously agreed to go back to bed and read for the rest of the day.

Late in the morning, the wind really started gusting. We figured it was about 40 knots most of the day, and we learned later that it had reached peaks of 57 knots. We had to get up and take a look. We could see the ocean waves crashing against the opposite shore of our protective islands and shooting spray high into the air. Dan pulled out our video camera and got some good footage. Several boaters were out on their boats setting more anchors. The most excitement came when a rubber dinghy with a big engine broke free from its mother boat and started floating away out to sea. Luckily, a little island stopped it from going too far. Unluckily, the island was mostly rocks and the big waves slammed the engine end of the dinghy into them pretty hard. An intrepid sailor near the island jumped into his motorized dinghy and went off on a rescue mission. It was too dangerous to go up to the island on the windward side, where the dinghy was, so he took his dinghy around back to the leeward side. Then he walked over the island and rescued the breakaway dinghy. We were all impressed by his heroics and amazed the next day when we learned that the engine wasn't damaged. After hitting the rocks the dinghy had found its way into a little sand beach where it sat and waited for rescue.

All day long the wind never let up. No one was leaving their boats to visit or go to the beach. It was a pretty dismal birthday for Zion. We didn't eat all day because our stomachs were too upset. He asked when the wind would stop and we assured him that things would calm down overnight. We had never been in a wind storm that lasted more than a day.

Day 228 - Tuesday, March 6
Allen's Cay, Exuma Islands, The Bahamas
N 24' 45.0" W 76' 50.2"

We woke up this morning with the wind still howling fiercely. But things were a little calmer today. We think winds were about 30 knots instead of 40 knots. We were determined to get off the boat. We were all getting hungry! We weren't far from the beach. Our little rowing dinghy would take us there in a hurry, but we weren't sure we would ever get back.

We borrowed some rope from a boat next to us. Adding that to the rope we had on board, we made a line long enough to reach shore. Zion took the dinghy to shore with the rope and tied one end to a tree. The other end was tied to our boat. Now we could get safely back and forth by swimming or rowing. It reminded us of when the pioneers tied a rope from their house to their barn to get back and forth during blizzards.

We packed up swimsuits, snorkels and a big picnic lunch and headed to shore. When we crossed the island to the leeward side we were protected from the wind and the waves and it was actually very pleasant. Our biggest problem was keeping the iguanas out of our food. Zion dug a trench around our stuff and built a small wall with driftwood. It worked for awhile, but eventually the iguanas got brave enough to crawl over the fence and down into the trench when we weren't looking. The funny thing was, they never got smart enough to crawl up onto the food platform in the middle. If they saw us coming they would quickly scoot back out.


Iguanas at Allen's Cay
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We did some snorkeling in the quiet cove, but we couldn't go out around the point again. The cove had some neat things, like manta rays and a giant brain coral. Tricia found some Christmas Tree Worms. They looked like little plants, but if you put your finger near them they would quickly pull themselves inside their shell.

We found a sandy shoal where we could walk out to a small island (big rock). The rock here was more of the honeycomb limestone that we had found on Andros. On this little island the holes were filled with West Indian Top Shells, also called Magpies. We didn't collect any, though, because they were all alive. Tricia named the island Magpie Island. Zion wasn't interested in being king. The West Indian Top Shell is featured on the Bahamas' postcard stamps.


Iguanas at Allen's Cay
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Tricia and I considered sleeping overnight on the island so we wouldn't have to go back to the bouncing boat, but we weren't sure how to protect ourselves from the iguanas. We decided it was safer to go back to the boat during daylight. We all got back safely, then hauled in our safety line. We went to bed early, praying that the wind would stop soon.

Day 227 - Wednesday, March 7
Allen's Cay, Exuma Islands, The Bahamas
N 24' 45.0" W 76' 50.2"

Today the wind was still blowing hard, but it was down to 20 knots. We could get our dinghy to land now without the safety line. We packed another picnic lunch and spent another day at the beach on the leeward side of the island.


Zion's Birthday Cake
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A few other boaters joined us on the beach in the afternoon. We got a chance to meet our neighbors, Alan and Joan, on the boat J.B. Swoose. They are from Pennsylvania and they have a unique sailboat. It was converted from an old life boat. Alan did the work and it's a beautiful wooden vessel. We asked them about their unusual boat name. The L.B. stands for Life Boat, and Swoose is Joan's nickname. When she was growing up her brothers told her "she wasn't a swan, and she wasn't a goose" so they called her Swoose.

One family on the beach was from France. The father had been the man that rescued the runaway dinghy on Monday. Another couple came over in their wetsuits. They were on their way to Georgetown, too. And when we were walking on the island, we met a young couple with a six-month-old baby. They were on a boat, too.

Day 227 - Thursday, March 8
Harvey Cay, Exuma Islands, The Bahamas
N 24' 08.9" W 76' 28.8"

The big blow was finally over! The seas were very calm and everybody was leaving our little safe haven.

We had one small incident when we were pulling up one of our anchors. Zion when out in the dinghy, like usual, to dive down and pull up the anchor. When he jumped out of the dinghy he was two feet from the anchor, but there was an unusually strong current going against him that we didn't expect. He swam and swam as hard as he could, but he could only hold his position. He couldn't move two feet forward. When he tired out he started floating away with the current. He couldn't reach the dinghy or the anchor line. We weren't too worried because the current was pushing him towards an island, not out to sea. While we were trying to figure out what to do, Alan from L.B. Swoose saw what happened, jumped in his dinghy, and went out to rescue him. It's wonderful how boat people are always ready to help each other out. They really do take care of each other, even when they are strangers.


Sunset in the Bahamas
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Full Moon at Twilight
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Once we got out to sea we didn't push the boat too hard since we only had one rudder. But we did manage to travel 42 nautical miles. Our destination was a nice anchorage in Little Farmer's Cay. When we got close we saw that the sun was setting fast, so we anchored in Harvey Cay for the night. That night the sky was very dark and full of stars.


Sailboat in Twilight
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Day 231 - Friday, March 9
Little Farmer's Cay, Exuma Islands, The Bahamas
N 23' 57.5" W 76' 19.5"

This morning we quickly finished our trip to Little Farmer's Cay. We found a nice harbor there and we were able to pull our boat close to the sand beach because we have such shallow draft. A few other sailboats were anchored out farther on the other side of the cut. A cut is a spot between the islands where you can pass from the waters of the Grand Bank to the waters of the ocean on the other side.

We spent the afternoon touring the island on foot. At the end of the beach was a little sandy graveyard. The headstones were made of cement, and some of them were hand-lettered. By reading the dates on the headstones we learned that most islanders live very long lives. Several of them were over one hundred years old. The most decorative headstones were for Captain Moxey and his wife.

Walking into town we had to climb a steep path/road from the beach. We passed a giant pile of old conch shells, and a large pen for some goats. The fencing was made from a variety of pallets and pieces of wire, but I don't think it was really necessary. There were several big gaps in the fence and the goats didn't seem too interested in going anywhere else.


Century Plant
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At the top of the hill was a charming little Baptist Church, and next door to it a larger one was being built. The whole compound, including the white plastic water tanks, was surrounded by a cement wall handsomely decorated with huge pink conch shells.

When we went down the hill on the other side we came to the heart of town. We stopped in the little grocery store to buy some cheese and ham and vegetables. We met Mrs. Nixon who has managed the store her whole life and she welcomed us to her island. She is getting old now and her son and daughter-in-law from Nassau just moved here a few weeks ago to start taking over the business. They live in a little mobile home behind the store.

Our next stop was Ocean Cabin, the main restaurant in town. It was nicely done in blue and white cement and sat on multi-levels on the side of the hill. The inside was panelled with wood, with wooden tables and benches for eating. There were sailing pennants hanging from the ceiling, and baskets of shells on the table. Terry is the friendly owner and the proud grandson of Captain Moxey. Terry holds hermit crab races on his porch during the Farmer's Cay Regatta every year. He told us that a couple from DePere, Wisconsin, Jim and Marie, lived on a nearby island and we should try calling them on the radio to say 'hi'. Terry's four-year-old daughter came out to talk with us and taught us how to use the big shells as toy telephones. They work great. You can even hear the ocean in them. We wanted to make reservations for dinner to celebrate Zion's birthday, but Mother, the chef, was out of town at a family funeral. We made reservations for Saturday night instead.


Typical Scene in the Exumas
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Next we tried the post office to mail our post cards, but it was locked. We started walking up a steep hill to see what was on top. When we were halfway up we were overtaken by a friendly local woman who asked us if we were going to see the wood carver. He is one of the best native Bahamian artists and he lives on top of the hill. She was his wife, and she showed us to her home. Their home was smaller than our boat, and the carving shed behind it was even smaller. The carving shed displayed a few beautifully carved statues of native owls and parrots and Bahamian women. The wood was tamarind, a mixture of light and dark colors. The wood carver gathered it from the island. We bought a statue of a Bahamian woman with a parrot on her head. The parrot is leaning because the wood bends to one side, but the whole thing stands perfectly balanced. The wonderful part was watching him carve his name, J.R., and the date in the bottom of the statue. He did it so quickly it looked like he was carving butter instead of solid wood.

J.R.'s wife also told us we could give our mail to the post mistress who lived in the green house next to the post office. Sure enough, we walked to her house and got our mail into the mailbag that was leaving on the mailboat the next day.

We continued our walk around the island and came to the two-room yellow and green school. Everyone in town had told us to just stop in the school and visit. When we got there the classroom was empty. It looked like all grades were in one room. The middle room was shut up tight and we could hear a movie being played inside. We didn't want to interrupt their Friday afternoon show, so we moved on.

We came to a little hut with some shells and things for sale. One shell was a King's Helmet. We had found several live specimans but didn't want to kill them just for the shell, so I wanted to buy this one. A young woman with a child on her hip came out to greet us. Next we met her husband who was the eldest son of Mrs. Nixon, the grocery storekeeper. This was an enterprising couple. In addition to their shells, they had a vegetable garden and a coop of chickens. We bought a few tomatoes and cantalope and the shell. They also had signs up indicating he was a "Master Bilder" and they sold tickets for watching movies inside their home. Unfortunately, the movie projector was broken and there wouldn't be any movies today.

This completed the loop around town. Back at the grocery store again we found that the new young woman from Nassau was starting a Friday night fish fry. We bought some french fries and conch fritters. The fritters were deep-fried nuggets of cornbread with small pieces of conch inside. We all liked them, even the kids. Then she treated us to a basket of cracked conch. This is conch that has been pounded thin, dipped in batter, and deep-fried. It was delicious! It tasted like a big piece of shrimp or lobster.

We walked back to our boat along the beach in the dark, ready for a good night's sleep.

Day 232 - Saturday, March 10
Little Farmer's Cay, Exuma Islands, The Bahamas
N 23' 57.5" W 76' 19.5"

It was a glorious morning and the sparkling waters were beckoning, so Zion took Tricia and I into the mangrove swamp he had found. It was filled with conch, both living specimen and empty shells. This was the best swamp that I've ever been in, because the bottom under the water was flat limestone, not mud. It was a joy to wade along. As the tide changed the water changed from ankle deep to knee deep. We had fun searching through the piles of old conch shells for the most perfect ones.

Dan called Jim and Marie on the radio and they invited us to come visit their island. They came over in their Boston Whaler to pick us up. It turns out that they are indeed from DePere, and they own their own little island named Hattie Cay. They say it is the most protected little island in all of the Bahamas. It's about three acres in size and they have done a lot of work building a home on it. They use solar panels to get energy and they collect rainwater from their roof and store it in a cistern. Sure, the roof might have some dirt on it, but some of the dirt sinks and some of it floats. They take their water from the middle. It was amazing to think that every item there, every piece of wood and bag of concrete, had to be hauled there by boat and then carried up the steep rocky path from the shore on someone's back. Jim says he has the sore muscles to prove it.


Jim and Marie on their island
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Jim's background is construction, and it shows. Everything is well-built and hurricane-proof. He had a lot of experience building with concrete. Back in the states he converted some old barn silos into five-story homes. Marie says it's never a good idea to put your kitchen on the top floor.


Jim and Marie's Home
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Jim also had a Hawaiian sling, a type of spear used for catching lobster. Lobster hide under overhanging rocks. To catch them you dive down and shoot them with the spear. He demonstrated how it worked and gave Zion a chance to practice on some soda cans. I liked the idea of catching some lobster to eat and I told Zion we would buy him a spear if he wanted to use it. He declined. Killing live animals with spears just isn't our thing. We're becoming very content with our Texturized Vegetable Protein (soy meat).


Jim and Marie's Home
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Jim and Marie are still working on their home. They come down here for several months every year. They just poured a wonderful cement walkway from their dock to their house, complete with steps where needed. They are even starting a garden. There is not much soil, but their yard is filled with the honeycomb limestone. Some of the holes in the rock are big enough to fill with dirt and plant a seed. Marie showed me a native century plant growing on the edge of their island. It looks like a tall green palm tree with only a few leaves on top. She said that the plant grew twenty feet in just the last few months. It never sent up a stalk before.

While we were there a neighbor from a nearby island stopped by with their mail. It turns out that the neighbor was the manager of Musha Cay, a new resort that just opened a few weeks ago. It is supposed to be the most expensive and most exclusive resort in the world. The only way to get there is by sea plane, and a week's stay costs something like $300,000. It's for people like Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, so they have a chance to get away and have some privacy. It was fun listening to the stories about the construction problems. They were giving away some old toilets that didn't work (the new ones can flush a boot), and they had lots of mattresses they no longer needed that were being sent to the AIDS House in Nassau. While we had been visiting around Little Farmer's the day before, we learned that many of the natives on the island worked at Musha Cay, but we hadn't realized what it was.

Jim and Marie sent us off with two large bottles of their good-tasting rainwater. Knowing how valuable good water is in these islands, it was an incredibly generous gift. Thanks again, Jim and Marie. We enjoyed every drop.

In the evening we went for dinner at Ocean Cabin. Zion had a steak, Dan and I had cracked conch, and Tricia tried one of the local rock lobsters. Along with the entrees, we each had cole slaw and the Bahamian soul food, peas'n'rice. Peas'n'rice is a mixture of rice and small pigeon peas. Pigeon peas are like small black-eyed peas. It's in some kind of brown sauce that I can't describe, but it's very good.

We walked back to our boat along the beach in the dark once again, and tried not to get too close to the graveyard since midnight wasn't too far away.

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