Friday, November 6, 2009
I'm taking the next few days to digest what has happened so fast and mentally prepare for 6 months in South Beach. I'm trying not to judge the glitz, excess, and wealth too quickly. Traveling has taught me you can find your niche no matter where in the world you find yourself. I'll give it time. I'm also finding that the yachties are an instant community along the docks. Free time and sunny days are an opportunity to learn from the cities diversity and characters. I'm hoping the next months will be filled with writing, learning, and new friends.
Alive and happy,
Vero Beach, FL
Friday, October 30, 2009
Miami Beach, Florida
Monday, October 26, 2009
After a long trip south in the Euro Van with captain Buck I've arrived in Ft. Lauderdale for the boat show. Checked into the crew house and walked to the canal to gawk at the mega yachts coming up and down the inter-coastal canal. Bow thrusters pushing back and forth as boats wait impatiently for the draw bridge to gain entry up canal. Sitting at a key west salty bar with internet watching them go buy. I'm trying my best to keep my confidence up. Stay strong, be friendly and meet everyone and anyone willing to help me find a paying job. Not sure where to look yet so I'm wide eyed wondering around the water way. The trip down was good. A day and a half in Panama City beach, a day trip to Apalachicola, an over night in Melbourne, a quick trip to see Ben in Sebastian, then two nights in Stuart, and now to Ft. Lauderdale. A lot of miles down and a lot ahead of me. Tonight I'm tired with sore feet and a hard nights sleep last night. Onward through the fog. Wish me luck.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Other highlights of my St. Louis trip were an impromptu bike ride and concert in Forest Park with community member Jim. He literally knocked on Becca’s door and I answered. He didn’t know I was in town so it was a surprise for both of us. We rode over to Forest Park for the St. Louis Symphony orchestras kick off to their fall season. They set up the entire orchestra on art hill and played snippets of all the performances they have planned for the season. Jim and I shared a long and needed update about our lives while eating pastrami sandwiches and cheesecake from the hill. An hour of free outdoor symphony was topped off with a surprise fireworks show in the cool September night. From there Jim helped me through the city streets on a road bike back to campus to meet up with more friends.
On Friday I went to Sulard market and the international food store to gather ingredients for a curry dinner party. The curry was a success and the dancing at Novak’s was fun, but couldn’t compare to colossal nights spent there during my last semester. I miss a certain blonde community member who always keeps me dancing.
The week was full of lunches and coffees with professors, friends, writing sessions, and the career counselor (dun dun dun). These exercises in sharing my story and the millions of ideas and possibilities whirling through my head were needed. Everyone I encountered told me to keep riding the wave (in so many words). Each person reminded me as I often need to remind myself – you are young, free, and don’t need all the answers right now.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Monday, August 31, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
The gift of time was restored in my life abruptly but peacefully five days ago. After five weeks on Motor Yacht Orly I walked out of the six foot by five foot cubby hole crew quarters for the last time. In hindsight it was a short tour, but during the day to day of the trip the days ticked off like grains of sand forced to fall one granule at a time counting down to eternity. But this is not a space or a time to tell stories of my five weeks of entrapment and subsequent waning confidence. The friends, family, and strangers who come across these words need to know how happy, grateful, well-taken care, and stronger I am today in this present moment.
One week ago with cash in pocket and duffel bag in hand I finished my contract and walked away from Orly. Jumped in a cab to Penn Station, New York City. Then after a coffee and friendly conversation and a little mutual venting with the bus dispatcher I climbed on the Megabus to Boston, Ma. With sleep and crucial miles to separate me from the boat I started the reconstruction of myself. The Bus dropped me off in Boston where I walked a few blocks to the Public Library to wait for Ben. With a whirl wind pick up off the street corner we were together again in a different time and city. This instant feeling of freedom and happiness sprayed over me. The muscles in my back relaxed and my brain began to smile. A quick overnight with Ben’s friend in Boston and we were on the road again headed North to Camden Maine.
The trip to Maine takes 4 hours on paper, but Ben and I stretched it into a whole day with poignantly placed pit stops. We followed a two-lane highway in search of Jamaican jerk chicken. Ben discovered the roadside drum pan chicken stand during a previous season. With a little luck we found it easily. It is only appropriate that the first thing I ate as an island transplant in coastal Maine was a curry chicken Jamaican patty. No lobster rolls craved or needed that day. The food was excellent and the atmosphere as authentic as possible in a climate that can’t support palm trees. A fence made out of pine logs made the hill into a terrace where an inviting hammock was slung between two pines. Bob Marley piped in through speakers attached to the small cook house. Seating was entirely out doors and as it should be, ever surface sported red, green and yellow. The proprietor was a healthy and smiling Jamaican women and an older thinning but strong Jamican manned the drum pan. After eating our fill of jerk chicken and meat pies we took a few more chicken patties (food of the gods) to go and hit the road. Other stops along the way included a surf shop to outfit Ben with a new space age like wetsuit. Full and newly geared up we made the final leg North towards Camden.
As we came close to Camden hills started to rise out of the two lane road. We arrived with enough strength and sunlight to rally some crew for a sunset sail into the bay and beer and pizza at Paullina’s Way. After a haisty escape from Charleston, 35 days north bound on Orly, a bus, and a three hundred mile car ride I entered a word of green, cherished sunshine, excellent company, and most importantly peace.
Camden is a place I am only beginning to discover through nature and encounters with its residence. A place that makes you fell alive and gave me an incredible respite after hitting some major lows during the last weeks on Orly. I walked into a beautiful community and home that has captured Ben. He makes a good guide and after five days of relaxing I think I’ll make a better student and exhibitioner. As I discover the landscape in prime season each day feels like a gift- mountains, lakes, rivers, rocks, oceans, and incredible boating grounds. It is another chapter of my wondering and as I settle into it I remind myself to write and absorb each day in gratitude for its gifts and knowledge.
Friday, August 7, 2009
I have been without a computer the last 3 weeks and a lot has happened. I got a job on a 94 foot SunSeeker. I'm the Stuart/Cook for a family of six traveling up the east coast for the summer. I'm currently in Martha's Vinyard. Headed to Nantucket and back to New York city where my contract ends on August 18. I like the work and am enjoying traveling. Life is good when I steel little moments for myself and enjoy the places we are visiting. After I'm done with this job I'll be visiting some peopled from the Bahamas in Cape Cod and Maine. Then looking for more work. I will write a more elequent update when I have access to my computer and the internet. Which may still be weeks away. For now know that I'm safe living out the master plan I crafted a year ago. I miss all of you and miss owning my time. But it's a good job with lots of perks. I'm plunging and living and life is good.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Now I’m back to work for a few more weeks. Trying to make the best of my last weeks in Charleston. This evening I took a long stroll around the historical areas of down town. I tried to get off the main track away from the gobs of tourists. I found some pretty amazing ally ways. The buildings are immaculately maintained and the attention to details and gardens make the streets feel unreal. At times it feels like you are walking through a movie set. Most of the buildings are uninhabited. They are the prize trophy homes of wealthy North Easterners who flock down for the weekend once a year to enjoy fine dining and an art scene. The city thrives on tourism. Walking down the streets there is a mix of classes, regions with in America, and international tourists. I pop in and out of these areas people watching, and slowly discovering more secret corners and alleyways. Like all cities I get to know intimately I imagine them during different points in time. I try to recreate the street and people - how did they look, feel, and what was the day to day like? t. In its own way Charleston catches you. It turns couples into romantics as the smell of lavender and the hum of crickets float in the air. Well-dressed and perfumed friends travel in a pack over the cobblestones on their way to low country meals. Young couples in sear sucker look at a lighted menu on the brick wall of an empty restaurant. Sweating black and brown faces are on the line. From the window you see the fry cooks sling their frialated arts onto white rounds in the window. White faces sip tall glasses of tea waiting to be served. I am an outsider in this place as I slowly discover the people, and lines of beauty, race, class, and history.
I’ll be flying back to Louisville for a week on August 2nd. Still working out plans for after that. I’m free, mobile, and ready to plunge. We’ll see where the wind takes me. I love you all. Thank you for your messages, calls, and notes.
Amanda Ma r
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Thirteen tall ships came to Charleston Harbor last weekend for the South Carolina Maritime Foundations annual festival. I volunteered on Friday morning, but regretfully was given the task of ticket taker at one of the inflatable bouncy castles with a pirate theme. I plotted down in the shade and became listlessly apathetic to my take. My attention quickly turned towards people watching. A group of pirate and revolutionary war era reinactors made camp on the out skirts of the festival. Pirates, winches, and admirals in full costume casually passed me by. Parents chased dehydrated children with painted faces as they dared to enter the inferno of a bouncy castle. Military recruiters mingled with wooden boat artisans. Vendors and educators yelled messages and taunted the crowed with their wares, food, and information.
I was finally released for the children’s village at 1. I decided to take one ship tour before I escaped the crowds and hundred degree June heat. I boarded and met the captain of the Schooner Virginia. The replica schooner is only two years old. The hull and rigging are replicas of the ships name sake, but down bellow the equipment and accommodations are modern and comfortable. The ship acts as a sail-training program for children and adults. It is operated by the state of Virginia. A season aboard schooner Virginia would bring a tremendous amount of experience. I gave the captain a resume and hope to apply for the next season… that is if I haven’t fallen in love with some other adventure by then.
On the second day of the festival I toured the Romanian and U.S. Coast guard ships. These ships are much larger and their crews are more military oriented rather then sail training ships. These vessels teach seamanship to navy and coast guard cadets. The shot of the Romanian control room in the attached video show the soviet era technology accompanying the 7 year old replica ship. The cadet who gave us the tour was friendly and excited to be completing his training at the Romanian navy academy. Through slightly broken English eh brought us through the ship. Life aboard the ship kept moving around us as half naked cadets slipped in and out of metal doors headed towards showers, quarters, heads, and the galley.
On Monday afternoon Ben came into town and we sat on a bench in water front park to watch all the ships parade out of the Charleston Harbor under sail. Down the same tack the boats spread across the horizon and out the channel. All bound North to continue training and teaching the next set of curious tourists. The tall ship tours provided a window into history. These ships are replicas of past masters of the open sea. But the tour also gave a window into the alternative world aboard these sailing histories in a very modern world.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Saturday, May 9, 2009
My time ended with a final round of soul searching and a plane ticket to Charleston, SC for the summer. I’ve been here a week now getting adjusted and moving in with my long time friend Lauren Binard. My plan is to stay here until around August 1st. I’ll be attending a Sea School training in July and I got a job a Charleston City Marina working in the dock house. I start next Wednesday and am excited to be working on the water and in the boating community of Charleston. Taking it one step at a time as I search for what will make me happy in the next few years and how I’ll stay a float in this world with fewer safety nets. For now its one day at a time.
My Birthday is in a few weeks and I can’t believe how fast my 21st year went. It brought great changes. It included a summer in Indiana, a 21 hour semester, finding love in a community of 10 beautiful souls, graduating college, making the decision to plunge into Abaco and now Charleston. So here I go trying to stay a float and make the decisions that will eventually create a life. I by no means have all the answers. But I have a pen, a notebook, an incredibly supportive family, and friends to watch me rise and fall.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Little Harbour, Abaco Bahamas
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Yesterday (March 19) I joined my neighbors and two stray sailor boys for a pilgrimage to the end of Abaco. We piled into the Pierce’s Navigator. The two boys and me were content to snicker and sit on a cushion in the back. An hour later we were in Sandy Point and the sun shone brightly over the flat calm water. A local boy skillfully skipped rocks across the glassy bay. Fisherman cleaned conch and a flock of gulls hovered over the heap of discarded shells. We got the expected stares as we entered from people on the street. We were after all six East coasters and a Hoosier in a Lincoln Navigator. With rum punch in hand I fell into conversation with good people in a perfect setting. We watched the sun kiss the ocean before its nightly hibernation. Funny music videos of Bahamian hip hop songs played from a small grainy television in the corner. The restaurant is well kept with waxed wood walls and neat linen covered tables. Long tables of other white folks gorging on stakes and lobster joined us in the neat restaurant. Bare light bulbs cast stray light onto our plates. Another moment where life is good and the people surrounding you sharing a meal only made it better. I picked the bones clean on my pan-fried snapper, but avoided the eyeballs.
A small but beautiful excursion away from Little Harbour. Sandy Point is a place that the world could too easily forget, but in just hours there the hospitality and need for conversation and friendship was made apparent. Playing pool with locals and talking jive with fisherman. Life is good. Sandy Point is no doubt a more raw Bahamas that lives isolated but willing to share life with you.
Friday, March 6, 2009
I was simply along for the ride on this trip and had no idea where we were going. Greg and Heather asked me the night before if I wanted to go camping and I jumped at the chance to see some place new. After the rocky coast and another half mile into the bush I was not expecting a blue hole the size of a small lake. When we finally came to trails end we were at the ruins of an old road that was once part of Drink Water Plantation, a 1850s loyalist plantation. The inland blue hole is + feet across with a depth that sunk hundreds of feet down. It was surrounded with lush vegetation and tall seemingly ancient trees by Abaco standards. The rest of the island was logged out in the 1960s, but these trees were spared. The brackish water in the blue hole and the obvious fresh water deposits around it lend every living thing the water needed to thrive. The rest of the island is browning in the dry season, but here among tall Abaco pines life thrives. We met up with Adam and Todd who cut the trail and planed the original trip. This was the first time I met these two formidable characters. They were not who I expected to come across at the end of the bush whack. For some reason I was expecting to find some burly old school Bahamians sweating and drinking out of a canteen. Nope. Adam and Todd wore white fishing shirts and light weight khakis scratched with black streaks from the burnt underbrush. The thirty-somethings drank out of camelbacks and carried a sharp well-kept machete in a rubber sheath around Todd belt. Adam wore gortext hiking boots and carried around one of those new impact and water poof digital cameras and a GPS that could pick up satellite radio and play through a set of portable speakers.
Surprised and delighted by these new friends we set off to explore the stone structures and wells left by the former settlers. Each step of the way we envisioned what this place must have looked like during its heyday. White loyalist English settlers fleeing after the American Revolution. Once spoiled by the deep black soil of the new world, these colonists where sent here to bare the salt, rocky ground and hurricanes to grow cycill. Surely aided by and army of slave labor and the will toe make the earth grow these settlers obeyed the crown and set up and extensive plantation and infrastructure surrounding the blue hole. What remains are two standing stone buildings, several wells, retaining walls, some citrus trees, and shards of glass, pottery, and shrapnel. Trees grow straight our of the foundation and grip the walls of the old structures. Walls made from limestone and conch shell lye mortar are a foot wide and stand sturdily after a century and a half. We hiked around the first sight finding lots of pieces of glass but only one small whole bottle. Unstamped old rum bottles are a prize around the islands. We headed back up the hill and decided that it was best to camp on the coast because it would be impossible to safely building a fire among all the dry underbrush.
After the hike out we set up camp along the rocky shore. The off shore wind and half moon shaped inlet provided flat calm water and little wind. Todd, Adam, and I pitched are hammocks in some caesarian saplings and a decaying sea grape tree. Heather and Greg set up their tent on a flat piece of rock. I waded into the water but I only lasted a half hour– yes I am a wimp with a very low tolerance for cold water. The water here isn’t even cold by any reasonable standards but I am spoiled by the 85-degree water and 90 degree air of Abaco summers. The boys thought they could go spear fishing, but the hunters waded out for a half a mile and it was only sand and waste deep. We started to assess our food options. No fish, so we waded along the coast and collected whelcks from the rocks. Whelks are a snail like shellfish that live along the high tide line and live within their black and white shells. We collected a big bag full of them and went back to camp to makeshift a dinner. There had been some miss communication about who was responsible for a cooking pot. Adam had found a small pot earlier discarded by a backpaker or bug hunter years before. We cleaned it up and used it to cook rice. We put the whelks lcks straight onto the coals in their shells and let them steam in their own juice. Adam and Greg were champs as they shoveled all the creatures out of the fire and plucked them from their shells with leatherman pliers and cleaned them up. In between cleaning and building the fire they split a bottle of scotch between them. I cut up tomatoes, garlic, onions, salt and lime. Heather cooked a bacon appetizer by slinging the strips over a green branch and letting them crisp up and stoke the fire with drops of pork fat. Delicious. Undoubtedly the best bacon I’ve ever eaten. We mixed are creation together with the rice and whelcks and passed it around out of the bottom of a gallon jug. I don’t know if it was the tribulations in putting it together or the fact that we were sitting on these rocks in front of the moon, ocean, and good people, or weather those silly whelcks were just damn good. Our meal was filling, satisfying, and beautiful. We laughed and took in the rarity and beauty of that moment. Eventually everyone went to bed and for half hours sat in peace next to a fire along the water before retreating to my cotton hammock in the trees.
The night was cold, but my light sleeping bag kept me comfortable. My only distractions were the snores and rumblings of my treemates. In the morning Todd and Adam hiked back to their cars to get more water. Like rookies and we didn’t have enough water to split between us. A few hours later with three gallons of water and fueled with more fire roasted bacon and granola bars we were off back into the bush. We made are way through the bush to the edge of the blue hole. The water was chilly but the depth seemed to call to you. I feel like this around most blue holes. At first it feels like it is a black hole leading to the pit of the earth that could vacuum you in and take you forever. But then you find a calm in the darkness and accept these ominous holes for what they are, geological wonders. We snorkeled around the perimeter of the blue hole taking free dives into the blackness along the walls. The limestone was vertical and smooth for as far as you could dive. We saw few fish and the most interesting thing to look at were the intricate mango roots floating and diving into the brackish top layer of water. By the end I was cold and bored and swam quickly to complete my circumnavigation of the drink water hole.
We regrouped and headed off in the other direction in search of another ruined stone structure. Where we found massive tress growing out of the foundation and sour orange trees that sprang from the ground upwards towards the canopy. The cross bread orange was the shape of a lemon but was bright orange. We went through more speculation of what the structure was used for and how it was positioned. We did more poking around with spears and looking for clues and treasures. Adam and Todd decided it was worth a trip back to do more excavating. I enjoyed the novelty of the place but don’t identify with its shared history. I do admire the British ingenuity it took to build such structures at the end of the skinny island and the bravery of the loyalist who left comfortable lives and soft soil in the name of queen and country. However, it is a living ruin of colonialism and I couldn’t help attaching some stigma over slaver and the way that such epic colonization changed the coarse of development and history of the entire globe.
The hike out was harder then I expected. It might have been my imagination but I pictured the iron shore to be far less treacherous on the way into the plantation. The hike was hard and we were all glad to see the cars after an hour navigating the sharp deadly rocks. We raced down the paved roads back to Marsh Harbour and gorged at Snappas still in our charred and smelly cloths. An excellent and unexpected adventure in Abaco to be sure.
Me sitting on a rock above the blue hole
It’s been so long since I posted. It’s not for lack of time or lack of love and need for connection with everyone who checks in on me here. It’s simply that I’ve been working hard and playing hard. To be honest the world I listen to on the radio every morning and the one that bombards my googlenews is scary. Filled with unknowns and chaos. My degrees of separation from this world are a privilege. Life here is a word, good. I can’t remember the last time my body and mind felt so healthy and at home. I’m sleeping better and waking with a purpose. All these things assure me and give me confidence that I can jump into that other world at full speed when the time comes. Okay that was a little bit of an abstraction. A product of my solitude and self-contemplation. But I want to assure all of you that living alone in this somewhat secluded surroundings is not driving me crazy. It brings clarity.
I’ll catch you up on all the good in my life in the following posts.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Marsh Harbour, Abaco Bahamas
Monday, February 9, 2009
Last week we had guests so the housework settled down. Dad is leaving for a few weeks so I’m setting up projects to do while he’s back in the states. I’m hoping to have some visitors soon to mix things up. But for now I’m happy to work, read, write, and occasionally jump into the icy water (I’m spoiled the water is only 70 degrees and I just have to find a little courage to jump in and face the wind when I get out).
The cold fronts that put temperatures all the way into the 40s a few nights last week seems to be breaking. Which is a good excuse to go out and play. If I dare I’ll take the not-so-reliable de-flatable dingy out to the bite. Not having a solid dingy is killing me, but all you can do is make due with what you have. I think CasaMar teaches me that everyday. Learning how to be inventive when money or distance perturbs the obvious solutions to all the daily problems that arise on boats and houses that live in the salt.
My lines of communication are still limited, and I haven’t found a private place where I can be online to make skype calls. But please keep sending me emails and facebook messages. It makes my day if/when I get online and there are little messages from friends and family around the world. I’m always craving to be more social then is possible in Little Harbour so it’s good to get some words over the internet. I love you and am safe and contented living simply and spending quality time with my own thoughts. I hope all of you can find a place or time to do the same.
Little Harbour, Abaco Bahamas
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
I'll leave you with these jumbled thoughts for now. As always I'm still going through the motions with a racing mind until I can take the time to sort it all out. The harbour will undboutably bring that opportunity.
Little Harbour, Abaco Bahamas
Monday, January 19, 2009
We finally mad it to LH after a long drive to Fort Lauderdale and a stop over in the sesepool of Southern Florida. One puddle jumper over the ocean and a ride in the pick up (which could now win first prize as the oldest rusty truck on the island). We finally made it home to CasaMar, ripped off some shutters and found some candles. I made dinner in the dark and we ate our first meal by candle light.
I woke up early and ready to bleach down the kitchen and unpack. I took a siesta and watch my dad and the Indiana boys put together the electrical system. Installing the inverter and putting our four new batteries into place, it all came together and started charging our battery bank from the rays of the sun. I spent the rest of the day in the garden weeding and contemplating how and what to grow in the sandy soil. Then I took a walk on Bookies, the beach close to my house (and my favorite spot in the world) where I sit writing this.
Listening to the waves for the first time in 17 months. Looking out at the sea ss the sun goes down. Watching run freely chasing sand pipers up the coast. I sit here knowing that living here will be working, but thinking that today was a good start.
Day 2 (AM)
A day without a clock and I’ve slowly ran out of time. I sleep and wake naturally. Drink a little , east well, exercise, and sleep soundly. I can’t help but feeling that I’ve lived inside for six months and now I’m finally free to run. Move my joints with a purpose and dive naked into the ocean whenever I feel like it. LIBERATION!
Clean. I’ve scrubed every surface in the main bathroom. Bleached everything in our constant battle with mold and corrosion. I’ll need to do the same in every room in the house – mold and dust, paint and bleach.
Green Turtle Cay. I woke up early to prep for the day ahead. Made breakfaste, and washed the kitchen, packed everything and drove the truck to the ferry dock outside of Treasure Cay. Took the ferry over the sound and spent most of the day sanding the dried barnacles away from the prop with a wire brush drill bit. Dad and the guys took apart and cleaned all of the through holes. I made dinner and now it’s early to bed in the yard.
Being on cacique in the yard makes me dizzy. I can almost close my eyes and imagine we are on the water. But I know we are blocked up ten feet from the concrete yard. The saying is more of a rumble and not the gentle glide of the bat at anchor. There is a halyard slapping which only brings anxiety. I’ll be happy to be in the water tomorrow. Hopefully this time tomorrow night we will be anchored safely in bakers bay and a half day sail from home. Where I can tackle more projects and start to carve some sort of life for myself here. For now it’s time to half sleep in the v-birth dry on land with a snoring dog at my feet.
They put us in the water earlier then expected and we made the full sail into little harbour. The tide had us sailing triangles outside of the channel waiting for the tide to rise. Dad got anxious and we ended up sitting aground for an hour in the full moon low tide. We got into the harbour and tided to the dock half hour after dark and made our way to the pub for a well deserved drink. Sitting aground, especially when intential leaves everyone anxious to get off watching a spot waiting for us to float. I couldn’t take the anxiety and berried myself reading Island in the Sand down bellow until we got off. Good to be back in Little Harbour after a stint with the hillbilly partners in crime and my dad in the yard.
Spent the day working in the master bedroom scrubbing the walls and painting the beams white to fight the mold.
Friday, January 9, 2009
I'm off to the side terminal under the highway. To get on an 8 seater puddle jumper with one bag and my dog. The first leg of our trip is over. 16 hours in the EuroVan with Dad, Tom, Norval, and Tillie. A whirlwind trip to Miami and the Solar store will hopefully be my last bout with the rat race for awhile. I could turn my headache in the 6 lanes of trafic battling it out at 80 miles an hour into a metaphor but I'll resist. Just know I am safe this morning and on my way to my favorite place in the world. The moon is nearly full so you can picturing me watching it
rise over the ocean like a floating orb reflecting on the sea.
Fort Lauderdale, FL
** The following is an excerpt from an unfinished project that discribes my family traveling to CasaMar years ago. I thought it would be appropriate to post it today as I take the trip as an adult.
The aging brown full size Dodge Van contains everything we need for a year on the rock: two children’s bicycles, 3rd and 5th grade text books and curriculum, a desktop computer loaded with Windows 3.0, boxes of cloths, cases of garlic, stainless steel anchor chain, golf cart batteries for the solar system, random boat engine parts, spices, cookbooks, and our cat, Crystal, who disappeared among the cargo on the first day of the trip and didn’t surface until we arrived in Stuart, Florida two days later. Our lives fit in the few cubic feet of the vans near rusting frame. There is only room for the four of us to slip in and hunker down for the eighteen-hour car ride.
After two days of driving and a stay over in the Dolphin Motel in Valdosta we arrive at Uncle Rollie’s house in Stuart Florida. Rollie is not my uncle, but my Dad’s best friend and our neighbor on the island. The casual observer might be fooled by Rollie’s intimidating height, frame, and handle bar mustache. He wears leather, drives a Harley, and paints everything he owns Raider gray. In reality Rolando is the gentlest character in my life and today would do anything to protect or support me.
We have a few days to do our final shopping and put the van and all our belongings on to the Duke of topsail, the island’s only freighter. We also adopt a Dog, Gator. We affectionately refer to him as our Jack Russell terrorist. He lives up to the breed’s reputation by neurotically running circles (always to the right) and baring his teeth as you scratch his ears. Gator completes our eccentric family package- two kids, a growling dog, cat, and two hundred pounds of luggage. We are ready for our adventure.
We are exhausted and tired of traveling when we make it to the last leg of our trip; a short plane ride from West Palm Beach to Marsh Harbour. Cardboard boxes holding televisions, stereos, and other luxuries that are difficult and expansive to find on the rock are scattered around the check-in desk. We wait in line behind yachtsman in crisp blue fishing shirts, families with beach bags, and black Bahamian women sporting new hairstyles after weekend shopping trips to Florida.
Cody and I are impatient as we sit on top of our eight huge checked bags and backpacks whose seams threaten to break at any moment. Dad artfully packs our luggage in an array of duffle bags, dog and cat crates, and 1970’s style hard shell suitcases. We are ‘rag-baggers’ standing next to tidy sport fisherman with reel cases and compact rolling bags. Our bags are filled with food and boat parts stealthily raped in t-shirts to avoid the notice of apathetic customs officers. My backpack contains few personal items; instead it holds a six-pond leg of lamb (Christmas dinner). We bring very few cloths to the island that only requires bathing suits and t-shirts.
We wait anxiously for the Cessna to land. If it is more then an hour late our flight will be canceled due to sunset. There are no lights on the runway in Marsh Harbour. Luckily, AirSunshine does not disappoint us on this trip. Just months later AirSunshine would be grounded by the FFA indefinitely after fatally crashing two planes in two months. It was notably the discount airline for a reason.
My family and three black Bahamian women line up on the tarmac for the pilot to assess our weight. He strategically assigns us to the eight sets. Cody, my younger brother, scores the copilot seat. Even at age eight Cody jumped at the opportunity to be close to all those buttons (Cody is currently in his second year of flight school at Purdue University). My Dad’s six foot two frame ducks into the tight puddle jumper and squeezes in behind Cody. Mom sits beside Dad and I am put in the single seat in the back of the plane surrounded by carry-ons, fishing rods, boxes of mail and the crates containing Crystal and Gator who we sedate for the trip.
The pilot is young, flying for log hours and little pay. He cracks a few jokes before giving his obligatory “in case I crash us into the ocean there is a life jacket under your seat” speech. The prop comes to life with a charging sound and blur of black blades. The plane is hot and my legs stick to the beige pleather seats. I look out the window and wait for the grand release of takeoff. We are finally in the air and the humming engine quickly lulls me to sleep. I wake up forty minuets later from some turbulence. I look out the window and catch the first view of the water as we pass over Freeport. My heart jumps –I am finally on my way home.
As we approach Abaco we pass over a mile of marshland littered with crashed airplanes (legacies of 80s drug traffickers). Some plane skeletons are simply bulldozed to the side of the runway to make way for other flights to try their luck navigating the short, potholed Marsh Harbour International Airport. We touch down safely and all the passengers take a collective sigh of relief and applaud our young bush pilot. The pilot opens the door and the humidity hits me like a blow to the face. My heart jumps a little more.
We collect our backpacks and move towards the small customs office. Docile ceiling fans creek more then they move the air above us. As a family we wait patiently behind the torn yellow piece of tape on the tiled floor. We approach the bulging immigration officer; her fat black face looks slightly intimidating in the blue polyester uniform. No smile, but Dad lays on the charm as he explains we are finally back to stay in our home in Little Harbour. Most Bahamians consider anyone choosing to live in Little Harbour insane, and you have to seriously bribe a taxi driver to even bare the road to get there. Her eyes leave our passports for only a moment before she slams her stamp of authority and waves us through to customs.
We retrieve our bags from a rickety cart sitting under a makeshift roof. When it’s our time to approach customs our twelve bags take up the entire counter. The uniformed officer surveys our load, makes us take the sedated animals out of their cages, opens the top duffle my dad has strategically placed in the middle. He sees the bathing suits, sunscreen, and our white face. We are waved through the tinted doors. We line up our bags on the cracked sidewalk while Dad goes over to the taxi stand in search of “my man Aubry” our loyal taxi driver. Mom puts Gator on a leash and he wobbles out of sedation and into a new world of fascinating smells. Aubry loads up our bags, takes us to the Golden Harvest, the only food store on the island, to pick up some staples. He drops us off at Boat Harbour Marina.
For years only a primitive logging road cut through the bush to Little Harbour, but after an Abaconian became Prime Minister the island got a paved roadway. The van won’t arrive for a few more days so we us Mario, our runabout motorboat, to get to Little Harbour. We use an aluminum dock cart to ferry the endless stream of bags and groceries. When everything is stowed Dad starts the engine and we are finally on our way back to Little Harbour. We cut through the sound for thirty minuets before reaching the mouth of the harbour. Dad hikes up the road to get the four-wheeler and a converted trailer that looks like a white plywood wagon. We load all our bags into the wagon and Cody and I climb in on top. The wagon bumps along the harbour road and up the hill. At the peak we get our first view of the ocean and my heart leaps.
After long days of traveling Cody and I are itching to be set free. One final push is required to ferry all our gear from the trailer into the pitch-black kitchen. It is our first trip of the season and the entire house is boarded up with shutters for hurricanes. Solar panels and deck furniture consume the living room. Sheets cover everything in a futile attempt to protect furniture and electronics from the salt. Dad gets to work taking the shutters off the main bedroom before it gets dark. All of us will sleep in the front room with only candlelight until we can adjust the battery system in the morning. Some of my best sleep comes from a mattress on the floor with the sea breeze shooting through the sliding glass door. That first night even in the disarray of moving in I feel instantly at home. The journey from Southern Indiana to Little Harbour takes five days and when we finally fall asleep at CasaMar it feels like we’ve arrived at the end of the earth. In some ways we have.