How to Provision a Boat and Get Diarrhea All in One Day
18.05.2014 - 18.05.2014
Day Two Itinerary: Sailing from Elizabeth Harbor, Great Exuma to Stocking Island (1/2 Mile)
We had tricky logistics for the morning. The grocery store closed at 11:00 a.m. Our sailing charter didn’t start until noon. Our sailing friends from Canada arrived at 2:00 p.m.
So, we decided to just make a trip to the beach because thinking about all of those logistics made our head hurt.
We headed to the grocery store at 10:00 a.m. The plan was to get all the provisioning done by 11:00 and beg the young couple cleaning the boat to let us go ahead and put our food away even though it was an hour before our charter started.
If begging didn't work, Plan B was to bribe them with our $300 box of liquor. If we had to go to Plan C, we were going to need some duct tape and a plunger, so we hoped we didn't have to go to Plan C.
I have shopped in a small Bahamian grocery store before, so I am not unaccustomed to the rather odd, sometimes random, and always limited selections that you encounter there. However, I had never provisioned a boat for 7 days for 6 adults, knowing there would be very limited opportunities to pick up any additional provisions during the trip (because the only thing you could find on the smaller cays is the equivalent of a small town gas station mini-market where you might be able to score a pack of crackers and a can of soda if you are lucky).
Lessons for provisioning a boat in the Bahamas:
• If you don’t eat it at home, you won’t eat it on a boat. Just because you’re on a boat doesn’t mean you have to resort to lots of dried beans, tomato paste, and sardines. Unless you are sailing to Africa, you can probably stick to your normal diet.
• You can never have too much alcohol. 12 bottles of liquor, 1 bottle of champagne, 2 cases of beer, and 4 bottles of wine may sound like a ridiculous amount of alcohol for 6 people to get through in just seven days, but it’s amazing what you can accomplish with a little focus and determination.
• Be patient because nothing in the store will be where it should be. For example, at the Exuma Market, I found the toothpaste with the rat poison. The pizza crusts were with the salsa and chips, not with the Italian foods. And hot dog buns? Well. I never did find the hot dog buns. Probably because the hot dog buns were not with the bread, but were actually with the lighter fluid, and I didn’t think to look there.
• Be flexible. So you wanted Doritos. Bob’s Cheesy Nacho Strips are probably just as good. Want Sprite? You may have to settle for Club Soda and a box of Splenda. The important thing to remember is that there is no food you can’t live without for a week. Especially if you have 17 bottles of liquor and 2 cases of beer.
• Expect things to cost more. That $2.99 box of cereal you buy at home is going to cost you at least 3 times that in the Bahamas. I find that one tends to question one's actual NEED for Oreos when those Oreos cost $11.25.
• Be aware of your space limitations. A week’s worth of food for 6 adults has to fit in a space the size of your high school gym locker. And, after about 3 days it will smell the same. However, despite space limitations, you can never have too much water, ice, zip-loc bags, or toilet paper. Tie them with rope and wear them as a hat if you have to.
We pushed 3 grocery carts across the rutted, pocked, potholed pavement to the boat. Not only did the kind couple cleaning the boat let us go ahead and load up an hour early, they helped us put things away!
We didn't need that duct tape after all.
We were finally introduced to Island Girl, our home for the next week. While the outdoor and common spaces were AWESOMELY HUGE for a boat, the cabins left me with heart palpitations. It wasn’t my first time on a sailboat, however, and I knew to expect my bedroom to be exactly the size of my (very small) bed with a shoe box sized locker to put all of my things in and a bathroom (head) that could cause the hardiest individual to become claustrophobic in an instant.
We had the boat provisioned and our things put away by 11:00 a.m. and we weren’t expecting Sydney and Keith until 2:00, so we grabbed a taxi to the Fish Fry, a tangle of colorful one-room shacks located on the shore a couple of miles from George Town. It’s beyond casual and most of the places don’t seem to have regular hours but open when it’s convenient or they simply have nothing else to do.
Roland, our taxi driver, had recommended Shirley’s. Soon enough, we found her bright yellow building with the doors open, welcoming us inside with the smell of fresh fried seafood. Her menu was simple, featuring local seafoods, curries, and BBQ.
Matt and I ordered the conch fritters, cracked lobster and the coconut grouper to share. I’m not sure what we enjoyed most – the friendly service, the fresh food, the rum punch, or the delicious breeze blowing in off the ocean.
Shirley’s was a HIT.
It was about 1:30, so it was time to make our way back to the Exuma Yacht Club to wait for Keith & Sydney to arrive.
The term “Yacht Club” is loosely applied on Great Exuma.
We were surprised to find our friends already on board when we arrived back at Island Girl. After a short briefing, we were ready to set sail.
Because it was late in the day, our plans were not ambitious. We’d make the ½ mile trip across Elizabeth Harbor to Stocking Island, home of Volleyball Beach and the Chat n’Chill. The short ride across the harbor was beautiful and we all started to get really excited about the week ahead.
We managed to get there for the tail end of the Chat n’Chill’s Sunday BBQ. Dinner was complete with a Goombay Smash with a Splash and a dog named Butter that would let you throw his coconut.
We went to be that night full of BBQ, rum, and the hope and promise of our first day at sea.
Unfortunately for me, I was also full of something else.
Do you know where tap water comes from on a sailboat? Unfortunately, it is not sweet flower dew brought down by fairies. Ask 100 sailors if they drink the water from their holding tanks and I guarantee that at least 99 of them will say “no.” The water looks bad, smells bad, and tastes bad. That’s because it’s likely contaminated with dirt, rust flakes, paint chips, bacteria, cysts, or chemicals. You don’t know where the water in the tank comes from.
It could come from anywhere. You also don’t know how long it’s been since that tank was cleaned. Water tanks that haven’t been cleaned in a while have a thick layer of crud in the bottom and deposits of icky in the PVC lines.
I knew it the instant I did it. I was innocently brushing my teeth when I realized I hadn’t gotten a glass of water from the “clean water jugs” up in the salon. I was already undressed and really didn’t want to put on clothes and schlep back upstairs, so I used the water from the tap.
It was just like the scene in Sex and the City when Charlotte drinks the water in Mexico. I knew my mistake the second I swallowed some of the tank water. I could already imagine the bacteria coursing through my digestive tract, planning to take up residence in some cozy corner of my abdomen, waiting to burst out of me like that thing from ALIEN.
It was about 3:00 am when it hit me. I tried to creep into the head, but there is simply no way to be discreet or quiet on a boat. Your toilet is about 10 feet from the next cabin's bed, separated by a thin wall of fiberglass.
And smell travels.
Odors are made of gas molecules. Gas molecules are in continual motion. They travel as fast as a bullet. Humid air (like the air in a boat, for example) traps smells and causes them to linger even longer than normal. Small, enclosed areas (like a boat, for example) limit the amount of dilution possible, which further intensifies the smell.
I mean, it’s like a sailboat cabin is the “Perfect Storm” of the olfactory universe. When an odor is released, the small enclosed area and thick, humid air allow the odor to remain in a smellable concentration for an eternity. And privacy? On a boat? Forget about it.
You have no choice but to flush.
Even if it is 3:00 a.m. and the flush is loud enough to wake up the people on the next boat.
Because a boat head doesn't flush like a household toilet. The flush is excruciatingly slow and it is deafeningly loud. You have to hold the button down for about 10 seconds to get a good, clean bowl. It sounds like an 18 wheeler running through a cement wall.
I know there was nothing to be ashamed of. Diarrhea happens to everyone….nuns, princesses, grandmothers…even the Queen gets diarrhea. But I still tried to be discreet.
By my 7th visit to the head, I didn't give a damn about being quiet anymore. In fact, some passive aggressive part of me wanted to take an eye dropper and pour tank water into each of their sleeping mouths so that they too could experience the midnight joy of having their guts turned into molten lava.
Ka-whooooooosh-whooooosh-whooooooooooossssshhhhh (one one thousand.....two one thousand...) kaaaaa-wwwhhooooosssh (three one thousand)….
Oh what a night.