Posted on January 13, 2017
Holidays in the tropics
The end of the year is always a bit of a rush for our family. Thanksgiving, Christmas and two birthdays compete for attention, and we have certain things we need to do every year to celebrate.
This year was, of course, a bit different. No elaborate birthday parties for the kids, who seemed totally fine. No massive holiday baking marathons. No huge pile of presents under the tree. No tree, actually. We did a few special things to connect us to family tradition, but for the most part, we let things go pretty easily. There was some sadness about not being around friends and family, but the regular trappings of the season weren’t missed.
T’s birthday was spent anchored at Big Majors, where we did the requisite visit with the swimming pigs. The most fun rumor is that the pigs were left by sailors, who planned to return and eat them later; but apparently, they were planted by locals in the early nineties, both as an attraction and a food source. Once upon a time, they would swim out to your anchored boat and eat your food scraps. Now, they’re so popular that big tourist-filled boats will pull up to the beach and feed them; they don’t really swim out past your approaching dinghy anymore. It’s probably for the best; the anchorage was packed, and it’d be a bummer if one got run over. Waste of a good pig.
We also hopped over to Staniel Cay Yacht Club for a little birthday lunch. The staff overheard us mention the big event, and showed up at the end of the meal with a huge slice of cake, with “Happy Birthday” spelled out in raspberry coulis.
It was about a two-mile dinghy ride from our anchorage to Staniel Cay, but we made the trek several times, filling up our water jugs and picking up what food we could in the little bodegas. Staniel is about halfway down the Exumas chain, and an important reprovisioning stop. We were happy to find some fresh fruit, eggs, and milk, and topped off the diesel tanks.
Christmas found us anchored just south of Staniel, off the town of Black Point. Less touristed, but still loved by cruisers, Black Point is more of a “locals” town, and every morning, powerboats buzzed past us ferrying residents to their jobs at Staniel Cay Yacht Club. For Christmas Eve, we put together a potluck on shore with some other cruising families. Christmas morning was extremely windy, as predicted, so the kids and I stuck to the boat while Michu headed in to check out the local church; he reports that all the cruising boats were individually prayed for, that we would avoid storms and that our anchors would set well. We pulled on our foul-weather gear and braved the wet dinghy ride to Lorraine’s for dinner, along with the rest of the fleet. Lorraine had put together a delicious buffet for the sailors, including All The Meats—turkey, pulled pork, fried fish, crab salad, some kind of beef, and fried conch. T was loving it. Post-cake, the tables were pushed to the side, and the cafe transformed into a disco. You know, your typical Christmas Dinner Disco boogie. Isn’t that what you did this year?
Part of the wonder of this trip has been the reminder of people’s tremendous capacity to adapt. We’ve adapted to all kinds of things as a family, of course—tight quarters, less of a schedule, homeschool, showers on the stern step, limited internet (well, we haven’t really adapted well to that last one); but it’s striking how easily we’ve adapted to the incredible beauty and easy cruising of the Bahamas. Tonight, I saw a mosquito for the first time since we left Florida. It just hasn’t been buggy, and I’d ceased to notice the glory of insect-free outdoor living. We snorkeled on a reef in the middle of nowhere the other day, filled with amazing fish, and it was just our family and our four friends. This seemed normal to me. We rarely ask ourselves if an anchorage is going to be ok—instead, we ask ourselves which of the four or five nearby anchorage would be best. I have a strong feeling we will look back on these past few weeks and wish we could return.
There are some particular, local traditions around the holidays that we’re missing—especially Junkanoo (best sampled in Nassau), and the traditional Bahamian sailboat regatta at Staniel. As we’ve been traveling with friends, decisions about where to go—and when—have been a little more fraught, wanting to stay together but having our own agenda. Instead of dwelling on what we might miss, we are looking ahead. We need to spend some time in Georgetown, the big metropolis of the Exumas (population 7300); we won’t see a well-stocked hardware store or grocery after this for months, and we need to prep for Cuba and beyond. We know of a couple of families heading in the same direction, and we’ll be consulting about routes and weather, but we’re at a point of being less casual about the direction of our days, and more focused on the next step.