In one of my earlier blog posts, I mentioned being in at Harbor Island in the Bahamas years ago. It is truly a beautiful place renown for its pink beaches and visiting royalty. Let me first say, that though I did find the beaches beautiful, I didn’t find them all that pink. Perhaps I was expecting too vivid a color like flamingo pink or maybe I’m a little color blind.
To get there by boat requires passage through the “Devil’s Backbone.” Now, I’m not sure who named it that, but I would not be surprised if it weren’t the guides. Most of the cruising books suggested employing a guide to make the passage. In Spanish Wells we hired Edison, a man who looked to be at least 70 (maybe much older) who was reputed to be the best. For $100, he hopped onto our boat promptly tying his small skiff to the back of our boat before assuming control. As part of his deal, his wife sends a loaf of her fresh baked bread.
From the time he came aboard until he left us securely at Harbor Island, he related numerous tales of skinflints who sought to avoid the piloting fee and ended up victims to the vicious reef. I gathered the point was to eliminate any doubt that we had made a wise decision in employing him.
Those of you who have cruised the waters in this part of the world know that aside from Nassau and a few major ports, the Bahamas are not big on navigation buoys or markers. Their approach is something like, “why spend all that money on expensive buoys when a few plastic bottles and pieces of pvc pipe work just as well?” About $100 worth of pipe and a few Clorox bottles could easily mark the channel through the Devil’s Backbone. But that would eliminate the need for pilots and then where would you get fresh baked bread?
One of the must-do things on Harbor Island is to rent a golf cart. While I was in the small office filling out the rental agreement, the golf cart rental guy struck up a conversation. It turns out that he had been stationed in Harbor Island during World War II on a PT boat running submarine patrols. After the war, he bought the PT boat and ran it until it blew up during refueling. I asked him if there was anything special I needed to know to avoid a similar mishap with his golf cart, but he assured me there wasn’t.
After being briefed on the age limits to operate a golf cart on the island, our children, Brittany and Chris, began exploring the island in our rented golf cart by themselves. We figured what’s the odds of encountering a policeman who would notice or care if Chris was a year or two shy of the legal age. Of course, a few hours later, Chris returned dejected after being busted by the Island’s police man. Luckily, they only gave him a warning, so he did not get to experience the Old Harbor Island Jail which had been created out of a natural cave.
Having avoided serious prison time, the two of them continued their island exploration on foot with Britt making friends with everyone she met. This was emphasized when we went into the little town for dinner and several couples referred to us as Britt’s parents.
The kids enjoyed fishing, with Britt continuing to enjoy catching the tiny fish in the harbor long after Chris had become bored with it. Of course, the part she did NOT enjoy was baiting the hook, a task that fell to the men in the family. The highlight for Britt was when she hooked the smallest barracuda I had ever seen. I was well acquainted with what the larger ones could do with their mouthful of razor sharp teeth, so I admit to exercising great care as I attempted to de-hook it barehanded. Britt thought it was hilarious each time I would go to remove the hook, and the fish would flop causing me to recoil in hopes of saving all ten fingers (okay, eight as she points out).
But the truly high point was when we heard her yelling from the dock behind the boat. Fearing the worst, I ran from the salon and found her waving money. It turns out, one of the anglers had offered to pay her for the small bait fish she had been catching, and she had earned an entire Bahamian dollar.
My six year old daughter had earned her first buck!
Disclaimer: Frank Wilem is an author, speaker, and all around funny and entertaining guy. On this blog, his stories are based on his real life experiences, often with a satirical twist.
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