It was a mystery to me before we arrived in Andros, why this should be one of the least visited islands in the bahamas. It is not only the largest island in the Bahamas, but it also has lots of fresh water, one of top 3 barrier coral reefs in the world, and other interesting things like “blue holes”, which are holes thousands of feet deep that have fresh water on the top and salt water underneath.
Andros is magical and beautiful for all these reasons. People are very friendly and if you are walking along the road many people will stop and offer you a ride. It is not as expensive as other parts of the Bahamas. They grow some fresh produce here and there are white sand beaches with no one on them. But it is a strange place too. I’m starting to see that there is a reason why not many people live here. Most of Andros is comprised of marshes and mangroves and generally uninhabitable space. Apparently in the interior of the island it gets unbearably hot and there are killer flies and mosquitoes that will eat you alive.The Northeast corner of the island, where we are now, is the main population center. North Andros is very dry and covered with scrubby brush and stick thin tall pine trees. There seems to be almost no soil — the land is comprised entirely of limestone rock. The landscape feels prickly and dry and neglected. There is lots of trash on the ground. A feeling of inertia hangs heavy in the air. There are a surprising amount of abandoned buildings that are in various stages of construction. In many places you see a concrete foundation and some walls that are about half finished, and then the entire project was abandoned and it all just sits there. These types of houses abandoned in mid-construction seem more numerous than finished houses. Even some of the houses that are finished and occupied have such a look of neglect to them, that it is sometimes difficult to tell if a house is abandonded or occupied.
Today we went to the top of a hill — the first hill we have seen in about 4 months!!! On the top there was a property that had the most fabulous view over the ocean. This was a piece of real estate that in any other place I know of would fetch TOP dollar as an exclusive ocean view property. But here, there was a very odd abandoned house. Part of the house was quite old, with peeling paint and rusted door hinges. The inside walls had lots of strange holes in the sheetrock and it was partially torn apart, as if renovations were being done but never completed. In the back of the house was an addition/remodel project that was left seemingly quite abruptly — piles of sheetrock and nails and tools were still sitting there, but it looked as if years had gone by since anyone was there. Weird piles of trash covered the property.
Cap’t K. and I fantasized about what we could do with this beautiful spot….it would be a perfect hang gliding launch, or perhaps an artist retreat.
But there are also neatly maintained concrete houses and there is a fabulous tendency in the Bahamas to paint buildings pink and lime green and bright blue. Government buildings seem particulary likely to come in these colors. The police station we passed today was entirely painted a cheerful pink color..would you ever see that in the States?!
One of Andros Island’s claims to fame is that supposedly Captain Morgan’s cave where he stashed his pirated loot is here. Today we walked to the cave and explored it. It was a hole in the ground under the pocked limestone that went a few hundred feet back, and even came back out through another secret entrance. It was quite dry in there, and refreshingly cool. There was just enough light coming in the entrance to make it not too dreary, and we could imagine cave people happily living there. It would be a great place to get out of a hurricane, and not a bad place to stash some extra trunks of gold.
Here in the harbor where we are anchored, there are about 6 other sailboats. Some very interesting people end up here. When we first arrived we were soon greeted by a couple on a boat called Gitana del Mar. Jennifer and Michael are just a wee bit older than us, and are traveling with 2 of their children, who they are “boat schooling” on their 36 foot boat. They are from CT, so they are New Englanders like us. Micheal is a professor for an online university program and has managed to work as a teacher and also a writer while they travel. Jennifer is a yoga teacher and has been leading informal, free yoga classes almost every day in a little round hut on the beach, with the absolute most beautiful view of the ocean. That has been a special treat! Their children Mariah and James, who are 16 and 12, are wonderful, well mannered, and intelligent kids. They have been showing us around and giving us the scoop on where to go to get water, vegetables, internet access, etc.
Then there is Allan, an Irishman aboard a big, heavy steel boat called Cheal. He’s been sailing most of his life in Ireland and is now cruising the world. He has a marvelous Irish accent and is extremely witty and funny. He uses the word “wee” on a regular, daily basis.
He is planning on doing a solo circumnavigation of the world WITHOUT STOPPING next year. Only crazy people do that. He is amazing. I really like him.
And on the boat “French Summer” is Francois, another single-handed sailor. He and Allan and the Gitana del Mar family have been sailing together for awhile, and they have now formed a big floating family that really takes care of each other. They share movies, and food, and dinghy motors, among other things, and they have taken us in to their circle. I absolutely love how cruisers look out for one another.
We have also met a very interesting retired couple aboard a small catamaran. Their boat is named Maffick, which is an old English word that means something along the lines of “unrestrained joyful merriment”. Mimi is an actress, among other things, and Richard was a theater director, so they are theater people who are now living on a boat. They are well into their 70’s, but don’t really look it or act it. They are wonderfully fit and active and engaged. I really like them a lot. They have been happily married for over 40 years and Richard claims he has been sailing for 70 years, so they are inspiring role models for us.
There is another boat here that is smaller than ours — Waltzing Matilda, a wee 24 footer. Nate and his tiny, perky dog Mattie live on that boat and they are from the backwoods of Arkansas. Nate is an eccentric, enthusiastic man out on his first cruise. He’s had quite a few major adventures already, many which involve running aground, and he loves to tell stories of his mishaps and how he got out of them. He has very innovative ideas about things such as building a solar still in his mast to create alcohol on board.
The main Bahamian friend that we have met here so far is Christopher,a fisherman and all around handyman who lives on a boat in the harbor here. We hired him to drive us around in his jeep yesterday and he took us (Mimi and Richard and Nate came along too) to the “Blue Hole” and a vegetable packing plant where we scored some free vegetables. Although he does his share of wheeling and dealing to make a buck, he is a warm and friendly man. After paying him a bunch of money to drive us around yesterday, he took a liking to Cap’t K and told him that we could just borrow his jeep anytime we wanted to if we just put gas in it. His jeep is named “Jeesus Creepers”, and is the most beat up vehicle you’ve ever seen. The back window isn’t there anymore, only a few of the doors open, all the fabric is ripped off the seats, the entire interior is covered in dust and trash, and the car does not have the gear “park”. We took it out today and Capt K. got to practice driving on the left side of the road. Christopher has a uniquely low voice and manner of speaking that you must hear to understand, so here is a little video clip of him talking while driving Jeesus Creepers.