Boy are we spoiled. We are tucked away in a cove called West Bay on New Providence Island (Bahamas). The water is clear aqua, and we can see the bottom from our decks. We are surrounded by other Canadian sail boats. One of our closest onshore neighbours is Canadian fashion tycoon, the ridiculously wealthy, Peter Nygard. His Mayan-themed property boasts two swimming pools, water slides, and an outdoor four poster bed. His property lights up like Vegas each night.
Just a short dinghy ride away – we often have Clifton Beach (Jaw’s Beach) to ourselves. At the beach we have seen a huge eagle-spotted ray, starfish and snails. No sharks. It’s picture perfect.
West Bay has been our home for three days. Yet, I have been reluctant to leave the sanctuary that is our catamaran, SV Aphrodite.
We’ve heard stories of crime in the Bahamas. A few people, including other cruisers, have told us to carry a gun aboard, as much for comfort as for protection. As it happens, ‘our’ isolated Clifton Beach was the site of a gun-point mugging in 2014.
But, today we branched out – took a local bus – called a Jitney and grew roots. Nassau might billed to be dangerous. And, I believe the stories. But, Nassau is also a place where local people bring their children to play parks, where kids mingle after school in their school uniforms, and where eating with my kids at the Nassau McDonald’s made me feel like a dirty tourist.
Nassau is a cruise ship center. As such, it abounds with people who wear visors and t-shirts emblazoned with far-flung places – and possibly other cruise ship centers – like Alaska. The beaches appear to be crowded. The tiki bars seem to be occupied by college-aged males who are working on their beer bellies.
There is a Nassau that is full of tacky trinkets, t-shirts and jewelry shops. But, for $3.50, Betty, Paul and I were able to glimpse an entirely different, authentic Bahamian culture.
The Jitney bus is an inexpensive way to travel about New Providence Island. The buses, much like the Nassau buildings, tend to be colorful. Our bus today was the 12b, which has a pink and purple exterior. Passengers sit while music – largely reggae – blares from the bus speakers. No one seems to object. People pay as they leave the bus. That is just how the buses operate. The bus drivers seem to run their own show, and are willing to travel off route – for a small fee – if you ask them.
Billed as a homeschooling field trip, we had two destinations in mind today: Government House – the Bahamian parliament buildings in conch shell pink – and the the National Art Museum (bright yellow). Government House was pretty but disappointing. It is tucked behind a wrought iron fence.
The art museum was a mixed bag. Suffice it to say, my daughter Betty (age 10) had different aspirations for her visit to the museum than her brother, Paul (age 7). Paul was restless and filled his time tap-dancing as Betty tried to replicate one of the pieces of art. Needless to say, Betty was bothered, and a squabble ensued. That said, we enjoyed the colorful Junkanoo paintings, and both of the kids skittered squeamishly through a room of paintings of naked ladies.
Walking around Nassau I was reminded that car is king. Pedestrians seem to be given enough space to maneuver and not an inch more. The roads are twisty and narrow. We had to jump out of harm’s way on many occasions.
When we returned to Clifton Beach, I reached Rick with a handheld VHF radio. He was visiting with some Canadian cruisers – Andrew and Susan – when I reached him. Andrew and Susan are seasoned sailors and have sailed from Kingston, Ontario to west Bay. They have sailed to the Bahamas previously. They recommended sailing to Allan Cay, which is known to have iguanas as big as house cats.
Prior to this trip, my knowledge of the Bahamas was limited to images from a Sandals-style resort to brochure. To me, the Bahamas was warm, blue and maybe included an outdoor spa treatment involving warm rocks placed along the spine. Throw in a couple enjoying a sunset for good measure. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Far from being a taxi trip from the Nassau airport, the Bahamas is huge. The country “consists of 700 islands, of which 30 are inhabited, and about 2,400 cays (coral reefs).” This country has amazing things to show us. We have a 180-day permit, and will leave West Bay on Thursday afternoon.