23.07.2010 - 27.07.2010
“Is there beverage service on this flight?” Val asked.
“No,” I replied. “We don’t have a bathroom. Beverages aren’t a very good idea. You didn’t drink anything before you left the house did you? Did you?”
“Never mind. Here. Take this cardboard tube filled with sawdust. Use it in case of emergency. Oh, and you have a barf bag and a life jacked under your seat.”
“What’s the life jacket for?”
“In case we crash into the ocean. What do you think? Welcome to Hatfield Air. Enjoy your flight.”
We were preparing to board our twin Seneca at 3:30 a.m. on a Friday morning. The fog was barely lifting off the river around Island Home Airport as Matt and I piled ourselves and three sleepy women into the plane. We were Bahamas bound.
It was my 40th birthday and Val’s 50th birthday and Matt had agreed to fly us and two of our girlfriends, Alison and Cheri, down to Guana Cay to celebrate. He was going to be boat captain, golf cart driver, beer boy, dance partner, chaperone, and all around stuff toter for 5 days, but right now, he was PILOT and we all needed to sit down, shut up, and fasten our seatbelts. It was time to go!
The flight was the smoothest we have ever had going down to the Bahamas. With the exception of a slight headwind, the skies were crisp and clear and it was easy flying all the way. After a stop in St. Augustine for fuel and a bathroom break, we landed in Marsh Harbor by 9:45 a.m.
Our goal was to make the 10:30 a.m ferry to Guana Cay so that we could see the Barefoot Man concert at 1:00. Barefoot Man is to the Caribbean what Jimmy Buffet is to the Keys, I suppose, and it was just luck that our trip coincided with the annual July concert.
Unfortunately, that headwind robbed of us just enough time to miss the ferry by 15 minutes. 15 MINUTES!!!!! The next ferry? Not until 1:30 p.m.
Well, I guess there are worse things than being stuck at Curly Tails in the Bahamas on a beautiful day for 2 ½ hours.
We took advantage of the down time to throw back some cold drinks, order up some hot conch fritters, have a little lunch, and settle officially into Island Time.
The ferry got us to Guana Cay around 2:00 p.m. and we found that Barefoot Man apparently plays all day. Who knew? We hadn’t missed it completely. Troy and Maria (the king and queen of “everything you need on Guana”) got us hooked up with our golf cart and settled into our house, Shorecrest II.
We let our tired pilot stay at the cottage for a shower and some rest while the girls went to “town” (a sandy lane with a post office, liquor store, tiki bar, fruit stand, and grocery mart) to get food and drinks.
We got cleaned up and headed for….where else? NIPPERS!
Barefoot Man was still going strong when we arrived and we all grabbed a frozen Nipper and settled back to listen to Barefoot sing about his big deck.
It was a pretty calm crowd for Nippers, unless you count these two:
We had dinner that night at Grabbers, because I wanted to introduce everyone to the Frozen Nipper and the Frozen Grabber on the same day and see if I could throw them into a frozen rum coma. While Alison, reigning Queen of Arm Wrestling, was challenging everyone to a match, a smiley guy walked up and plopped down in one of our chairs. We all just smiled back.
“Hi. Where are all you from?” he asked, still smiling.
“Tennessee,” we replied, smiling back.
“What are your names?” he asked, still smiling.
We went around the table and introduced ourselves, still smiling, waiting for the punch line.
“I’m Fritzzzzzz,” he said. “Y’all smoke?”
“NO!” I think we said in unison. Loud. And then we smiled.
Fritzzzzzzz with the smokessssssss got up and wandered off to the next table. I don’t think he was offering us Marlboros. Meanwhile, undaunted, Alison continued to slam everyone with her massive biceps.
A great dinner at Grabbers was followed by birthday cake (Maria’s coconut cheesecake….yum!) which was followed by about an hour of frozen-grabber-induced singing of all your favorite 80’s tunes…including Ice Ice Baby and Super Freak….and that, my friends, was followed by a night of much needed sleep!
We went to sleep giggling and laughing about those two crazy girls at Nippers, dancing and singing up a storm as Barefoot Man belted out, “What happens at Nippers, stays at Nippers….” Not realizing that within 24 hours, WE would be those girls.
We woke to a beautiful sunrise.
We found out on day two that no matter how late we went to bed, we all woke up at 6:30 a.m. no matter what we did.
We had a boat from Troy for the day and Matt had agreed to trade in his pilot hat for his boat captain hat.
I wanted to take the girls to see my favorite beach in the world….a long sliver of white sand fringed by the clearest blue water on Guana’s northern tip. Worried that the Baker’s Bay development might have ruined my blessed oasis, we rounded the tip and to my delight, heaven opened up before us. It was still as pristine as it was the last time I was there…and not another soul was in sight.
The plan was to float blissfully in the clear water to the sounds of Bob Marley with a cold drink until our toes pruned….but first we had to get Val off the boat.
Have you ever tried to shove a feral cat into a swimming pool? Yeah. It was a lot like that.
After 20 minutes of coaxing her off the side, wrapping her in life jackets, bribing her with money and diamonds and chocolate, then resorting to threatening her with the anchor, she finally jumped in. She popped to the surface and started a frantic dog paddle, eyes WILD with panic, flailing in the water.
“Val,” I said, as calmly as possible, “Stand up.”
She stopped paddling and stood up. The water only came to her chest.
“Oh.” She shrugged her shoulders and was on her way.
Matt then traded in his boat captain hat for his beer boy hat and set up his own in-water Kalik & Lime delivery service while we all floated to our hearts’ content, waves lapping softly around us, not a soul in sight.
The music floated on the breeze as we laughed and swam, talked and floated, and watched a pod of dolphins swim by. It was magical and I could not have created a more perfect moment if God had given me a checklist and asked me exactly what I wanted for my birthday.
It was bliss.
The excitement of the dolphins broke our watery lethargy and we climbed on the deck for chips and salsa in the sun.
When we were dry enough, we motored over to Spoil Bank Cay, aka Shell Island, to walk through the shallows and look for shells.
Did the fact that Val only had to jump into 2 feet of water from the boat this time change anything? No.
We eventually slithered her off the side and everyone spent a while prowling for treasures, inspecting silly conch eyes in their shells, and just enjoying the otherworldly beauty of the place.
We decided to go when Val stepped on a sharp shell and cut the bottom of her foot. OUCH! It didn’t look too bad but it was our first (but would not be our last) casualty of the trip.
Despite eating about 4 family size bags of chips that morning at the beach, we were hungry for lunch, so we pulled into Hopetown to grab lunch at the Harbor’s Edge. I had been dreaming about their Chicken in a Bag.
I’m not sure who scored the best lunch, because they were all pretty great. Matt got cracked coconut conch, which was pretty phenomenal, and I don’t normally eat conch unless it’s fried up in a fritter. Alison got the edge salad with lobster and fried goat cheese and it was pretty much a winner too.
I think I liked mine the best, though. Chicken in a Bag is a big old fried chicken breast dumped on top of a mess of french fries, covered in ketchup and hot sauce and put in a paper bag. Add a side of Bahamian Mac n Cheese and you have perfection!
Matt needed an estrogen break, so we sent him on down to Gary at the Reef Bar to relax while we strolled through Hopetown.
We made our way to Hopetown Beach. What a gorgeous stretch of beach.
I think we could have sat there all day watching the waves crash and looking in the holes created by the tides that were filled with sponges and little bits of coral and shells. It was like looking inside little jewel boxes, as we listened to the song of the palms whispering above us.
Al and Cheri found some worn conch shells and tried to make a call, but I don’t think they had any luck. “Can you hear me now?” Good.
When we got too hot to handle, we made our way to the Reef Bar and Gary greeted us with a big grin. He has to be the friendliest bartender in all of the Caribbean.
We sat down with Matt and Gary asked us what we wanted. He then looked at Matt and said, “Are they all with you?”
“Yes,” Matt said.
Gary grinned from ear to ear (and he has a big grin, now, doesn’t he?) and said, “Really? They are. All. With. You.”
Matt sighed, “Yes. They are all with me.”
I’m not sure what Gary thought was going on, but he slapped Matt a high five and started making drinks. About 15 minutes later, he wandered back over and asked one more time, just to be sure, “They are ALL with you.” Matt nodded.
“You go, man,” he said. He chuckled and walked away shaking his head from side to side.
Apparently, Matt had traded in his Beer Boy Hat for his Pimp Hat.
At this point, Matt gathered his ho’s and loaded us back into the boat, waving at Gary as he left, Gary still chuckling and shaking his head from side to side.
It was late afternoon, but we still had a good 2 hours before the boat was due back. Matt and I decided to stop and snorkel at Fowl Cay Reef on the way back to Guana. We spotted the 4 little cays that we recognized and we carefully made our way onto the other side, looking for the mooring balls.
We looked. And we looked. We looooooooked and looked. Alison came up front and we looked. Cheri joined us and we looked. Val stood up and we looked. We never did find a ball. Where were they all???? I remembered them being so easy to find.
We looked one last time, gave up, found a sandy spot and anchored. We jumped in with masks and snorkels and saw absolutely nothing of interest. Some grass. Some rocks. Had the reef been airlifted? Had it been abducted by aliens? Were we just too heat stupid to find it? We gave up and headed back to Guana, perplexed.
Matt and I normally go in for some “down time” in the afternoon or early evening when we are on Guana. We take a shower, grab a nap, head out for dinner, and turn in early, usually around 9 p.m.
When I mentioned this to the girls, I realized quickly that instead of “down time,” evenings were going to be “get down time.”
They looked at me and said, “WHAT??? We can sleep when we get home. Get cleaned up. We’re heading OUT.”
By the time I got my shower, they were downstairs on the deck with cocktails looking at me like, “What the heck took you so long????”
It was Saturday night and Barefoot Man was doing an evening show at Nippers. We were drawn to the sound of bongos and the smell of fried fish like flies to the back of a sweaty horse.
Nippers was cranking. Barefoot Man was singing, the Sea n B band was playing the bongos, people were dancing, and the frozen nippers were pouring.
A frozen Nipper later….. we were singing like we actually knew the words.
Two frozen Nippers later….. we were making new friends, like Fat Calves, Wool Hat Guy, and Barefoot Man himself. Barefoot Man even sang Rocky Top for us, which of course, made all of us run out to the middle of Nippers and sing at the top of our lungs like the rednecks we are.
Three frozen Nippers later….we were dancing like we could actually dance.
Four frozen Nippers later…..well….like Barefoot said, ”What Happens at Nippers, Stays at Nippers.”
Um…..unless it shows up on You Tube.
I would like to say that we wrapped up the night and went to bed then, but apparently, according to the evidence I found on my camera the next morning, we all tried, and epically FAILED, to climb a palm tree.
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. Particularly without protective clothing and helmets.