Friday, June 21, 2013

Black Point Settlement and Farmer's Cay

  Last Sunday we had been anchored "around the corner" from Black Point Settlement and even though the anchorage was pretty, we were getting swells rolling in from the south. We couldn't get in close enough to the beach to offer us any protection from the land jutting out to our south, so we decided to head out.
  I was at the helm and Rosie was at the bow, ready to retrieve our "floaty" from the anchor line when I pulled it up. I noticed a new email and checked it, not knowing it we'd have service where we were going at White Point, a few miles south.
  The email was from Katie, of Jessie and Katie, the two young girls on the sailboat. Katie's dog, Reggie had gotten an ear infection, and Katie wondered if we had any medicine left that we had been giving Holly. I answered her that we did, but perhaps not enough for a  complete course to cure Reggie, but we would stick around if they were coming down to Black Point.
  I told Rosie the story, and we pulled up anchor and headed back to anchor just off the government dock at Black Point Settlement. There was ample wave protection at that anchorage, but we still didn't like the scenery.
  Once we got back to the settlement and got our anchor secure, we decided to take the dinghy in to see what was available in the town. A couple of restaurants were advertised in the guides we had, plus a grocery store, a BaTelCo office, a clinic, and a bar. All the essentials.
  First we saw the grocery store. Two women were sitting out under a tree out front. One invited us in and we looked around. They had eggs and lettuce, plus some butter which we needed. They had no bread, but the woman told us that we could get bread at Lorraines, a restaurant "just down the way". I told her we'd be back for groceries on our way back from Lorraines.
  After a short walk, we found Lorraine's, a restaurant that was touted in the guidebooks. We walked past a young girl sitting under a tree in front with a little baby. She didn't say a word although Rosie said hello to her. The door to the restaurant was locked, and it was noon. Hoping to not bother the young girl too much, we asked her if the restaurant was open for business. She told us to knock on the door of the house just behind the restaurant.
  I stepped on the little porch and was trying to decide which of the two doors I was going to knock on when I figured I would just give a "Hello".
  Door number two opened and a woman stepped out, wiping the sleep from her eyes, and asking me what time it was. "It's noon", I said. "Is the restaurant open for business?"
  "Yes. The time must have gotten away with me," she said.
  "I was told you sell bread here."
  "My mother makes it. We have some inside. Come on in."
  I let Rosie do the honors. She went in to buy a fresh loaf of bread, again for six bucks, and I followed the woman (who turned out to be Lorraine) to the front door of her restaurant where she unlocked the door and told me to have a seat.
  "Are you sure you want to open just for us?" I said.
  "No problem. I have to open anyway", is the response I got, plus "Help yourself to a beer if you want it, it's in the cooler".
  I knew the beer wasn't on the house, but it was Budweiser, and very cold. Rosie had, by that time, come in, so I grabbed two Buds as a start to our lunch. The beers were from February, a mere four months ago. This is factory fresh here in the islands.
  The menus were taped to the walls. We both checked them out, and I saw what I wanted, a cheeseburger. Rosie decided on a chicken sandwich. Each came with a side of our choice and we picked onion rings. "I think I have some of those", Lorraine said.
  While Lorraine was cooking our lunch in the kitchen, five more folks came in, a couple with three children. Business was picking up. No sooner than they sat down, but two more guys came in off a sailboat. When Lorraine came out of the kitchen, she was nearly floored. Nine people for lunch may have been overload.
  Rosie and I ate our mediocre sandwiches, and ate our previously frozen onion rings, and managed to drink two Buds a piece. Our bill with a tip came to $45 bucks. Lorraine was nice, and she was very appreciative of the tip, and we figured we got our money's worth and was happy to be a customer in what is obviously a dried up town.
  Back to the grocery store. The two women were back out front under the tree. We went in and got what we needed. We peeked inside a big chest type freezer and all we saw was a thin layer of goods at the bottom of the freezer covered with a layer of permafrost.
  "Do you have and bacon?" I asked.
  "I don't know", the woman said, and she started scraping ice away and digging packages of frozen meat and other things from the bottom of the freezer. She had no idea what she had in there. The chicken she was pulling out looked as though it had been in there for a decade. The meat was so freezer burned it looked transluscent, more like chicken popsicles than anything.
  I saw a red package near the bottom that in my vast experience as a bacon eater looked to be a package of Oscar Meyer bacon. It wasn't Oscar Meyer, but perhaps a distant cousin, but it was bacon. Five dollars for a 12 oz. package, said so on the lid of the freezer, in writing that was written so long ago, the felt tip pen it was written with dried up years ago, I'm sure.
  We were thinking that instead of spending the day sitting out under a tree, the proprietor would think about managing her inventory. Maybe run a sale on stuff in the freezer that was ten years old or more.
  We paid the fare for our groceries and headed back to the boat, certain that we wouldn't be spending any more time in Black Point Settlement if we could help it.
  The two girls didn't show up and we really weren't surprised. Aftert learning that we didn't have enough ear infection medicine to fully treat Katie's dog Reggie, they probably went to the clinic in Staniel Cay to get some medicine. Just as well. We didn't really want to give Holly's medicine away. What if she got another ear infection? 
  We spent the night and got tossed around still with the swells coming in from the south, even though the wind was from the east. I saw what looked to be a better spot about six miles away at White Point. I don't name these places.
  A sailboat was anchored right where I would have put Swing Set when we got to White Point. I stayed a respectful distance away, but we didn't have the protection of the tiny spit of land to our south that I wanted. Swing Set was tossing around like a filly about to enter a pen at the stud farm.
  We spent a restless night at anchor, and much of the next day too. Late in the day the sailboat hauled up anchor and headed out. He wasn't even around the point and we moved over to his spot. It only takes a few feet to make the difference in a rolly anchorage or not, and the move paid off. We stayed one more night, but the next day I started planning a route to Little Farmer's Cay, only eight miles away. Our Internet service was very spotty and we had some business to attend to, plus I was overdue for a blog post.
  Little Farmers had a BaTelCo tower, and also had a couple of restaurants and a bar, plus a grocery, but little else. But what else is there?
  Our intended anchorage was shallow, at least the approach to it looked that way on the charts. There were mooring balls available, advertised at $10, but I saw no need to use one if we could get in where we wanted to be, but we had to wait until a rising tide to approach Little Farmer's.
  The BTC tower looming over the small town on Little Farmer's Cay was a welcome sight, but the closer we got, the worse our signal was, according to the signal strength on the iPad at the helm.
  We passed our recent sailboat neighbor on the way into the harbor. He was anchored at Oven Rock, and it looked to be a good spot. He appeared to be out of the rolling of the swells, but we still didn't have a good signal from BTC, so we kept going.
  I wound up picking a spot between two mooring balls spaced a good distance apart. The current was helacious, as the cut out to Exuma Sound was right around the corner from where we were. But our anchor was deep into the sand bottom and I had confidence in the holding.
  At issue was some documents that we needed to get to one of our insurance companies back in the U.S.A. Mailing anything from The Bahamas is out of the question. Just forget about it. We were considering finding a traveler to take a letter back with them to mail once they got to U.S. soil, but then I had a better idea.
  I called a very good friend of ous in Florida and asked her if she would print our documents if we sent them via email, and then pop them in the mail for us. Debi agreed and we went to work sending her the documents.
  The cell tower on Farmer's Cay must broadcast some sort of signal for the use of the town only. We were practically under the shadow of the tower and were still not getting 3G, 4G, or any kind of G, just Edge. It took nearly two hours to send six pages of documents. Plus we used up all of our data transfer on our MiFi device.
  To celebrate this major accomplishment, Rosie and I took the dinghy in to have dinner at the Farmer's Cay Yacht Club, which is basically a concrete block building with a dock out front that had room for one our two boats.
  We walked into what was a run down building cut up into several rooms, some with hardly any furniture of any kind. We met Roosevelt, the owner, and asked him if we could get something to eat, as it was going on 6 o'clock.
  Roosevelt pondered this for a while. His wife was the cook and she doesn't like to serve dinners until later in the evening, say, 8 o'clock or so, but he would "go see".
  Roosevelt came back with good news. His wife would make us dinner in about a half an hour. We said that this would pose no problem for us and we asked if he had any beer. The guidebooks said that, "LaBleu," the restaurant in which we were seated at Farmer's Cay Yacht Club, had the coldest beer on the island.   
  Roosevelt was out of all but Bud Light, so we ordered two. Rosie was over at a table looking over a book exchange table (Take one, leave two) when Roosevelt came back and set two luke warm beers in front of me.
  "You may as well bring two glasses of ice, Roosevelt. I like my beer a little colder than this."             
  "The cooler is broke and the beer isn't cold", is what Roosevelt now decides to tell me.
Not only that, but when the ice starts melting, it starts adding an awful taste to my Bud Light, which in the first place would be fighting for any taste test awards as it was packaged last December. I assume in 2012.
  While we waited for our dinners, Rosie ordered another Bud Light, I opted for Bacardi on the rocks. Roosevelt came out and sat with us for a bit. He mentioned that it was "high season" and normally cruisers take a mooring ball out front. Two of the best ones were his, he said. I took in the comment about "high season", it being hurricane season, plus not another soul was around. Just to see what he would say, I asked him how much it was to stay on a mooring. He told me that the cost was $30.
  I gave Roosevelt the look. Without saying a word. Roosevelt then changed the price to $20 per night. Still twice as much as I would have paid, if I was going to take a ball at all.
  I told Roosevelt that I'd rather spend $20 on warm beer than pay for a mooring ball that we didn't need. He mumbled something about "The Port Authority" not wanted anyone to harm the coral by using anchors. As if.
  "I'm in the sand" I told him.
  Roosevelt decided to go "check on things in the office". Rosie saw him in there playing solitaire on his computer. Maybe he should have been cleaning the bathrooms or something.
  It was at this point that I told Rosie to not let me see the bill when it came. I didn't want my night ruined any more than it was. I was elated to have been able to solve our insurance document dilemma, and just wanted a nice dinner. But it was not to be.
  Rosie ordered Grouper with peas and rice and I ordered fried chicken with fries. Each dinner eventually came out, served by Roosevelt himself.
  When he left the table, I grabbed the salt shaker for my fries and no salt would come out. I knocked the shaker a bit and turned it over and the top came off and the full salt shaker emptied out in a mound over my fries, looking like the snow capped dome of Mt. Everest.
  I was at least happy that my small salad largely remained salt free, and my chicken breast also was unscathed. My fries got the salt shook off one by one. Rosie could hardly contain herself, and I admitted that it was pretty funny, but you should have seen the look on Roosevelt's face when he made a quick return to our table.
  His jaw dropped open when he looked at my plate. He obviously thought that this was something that I made a regular habit of doing, but he was speechless.
  "The lid to the salt shaker came off", was all I said. I'm sure most folks would have wanted another order of fries, or even a whole dinner, but even I considered Roosevelt less than scrupulous, I didn't have the heart to cut into his already slim profit margin.
  Back on the boat, we spent a calmer night, but the current was whipping through the anchorage. I was barely asleep when I decided that we'd pull out of there in the morning.

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