A Travellerspoint blog

August 2010

Vic & Val's Bahamas Birthday Blowout

Part I

Day One:

“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.

Day Two

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.”

Yes, ma’am!


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.

Posted by vicki_h 06:32 Comments (1)

Vic & Val's Bahamas Birthday Blowout

Part II

Day Three

We were up bright and early at 6:30 a.m. despite the fact that we climbed into bed well after midnight. It was worth it for the beautiful sunrise over the Atlantic.


I was sitting in the den when Alison walked in, still rubbing the sleep from her eyes.

“Look,” she said as she pointed at her lips. Her lips were at least doubled in size. I fell over. I was not laughing at her, I was laughing WITH her. Okay, I was laughing at her. I did the exact same thing on Guana 2 years ago and I looked like I had collagen injections for 3 days. Wear lip gloss with SPF ladies. Unless you want to look like a plastic surgery victim.


We consoled Alison by feeding her “Alison’s breakfast of champions.” Seriously. She ate about 7 slim jim’s every morning. The girl must have hidden 40 slim jims in her bag.


We stopped by Dive Guana to pay for the boat and Maria and Troy were just arriving. Maria smiled and looked at us and said, “I didn’t expect to see you up so early. Did you get enough dancing in?”

We blushed. Was there anyone on Guana that didn’t see our show?

It was Sunday and to me, on Guana, Sunday means Nippers Pig Roast. I can’t imagine spending my day any other way.


We made our way over to Nippers. It was early and the pool was blessedly empty. We claimed a row of chairs and umbrellas, ordered some Bahama Mamas, and kicked back. We had everything we needed: cold drinks, a wonderful breeze, a delicious pool, a stunning beach….and a bonus….WATER HAMMOCKS!


The morning was spent in leisure mode with books and drinks, sun and water, smiles and friends.


Eventually, the smell of BBQ pork wafted over and became more than we could resist. We were loathe to leave our poolside oasis, but we had to have that food. We claimed a table and everyone got their tokens.


The buffet was as good as always: BBQ and regular smoked pork, potato salad, mac n cheese, peas n rice, Caribbean cole slaw, bread pudding, and more mac n cheese. I ate until I thought I would BURST. We all did.


We decided to walk it off by walking down to High Rocks. Because our previous day’s snorkel attempt had been totally unsatisfying, I knew High Rocks would deliver. The walk down was breathtaking. Have you ever seen such pristine sand…such beautiful water? Who knew heaven was blue and green?


The girls asked when we would know we were at High Rocks.

“Um…you’ll see high rocks?”

And that we did.


We had borrowed the snorkel equipment that we could find at the house and it was a bit of a Three Stooges Affair. My fins were about 6 inches long. I have small feet and the only pair in the house that would fit me were apparently made for a 5 year old. Matt and Alison had okay fins, but we had a hodgepodge of masks and snorkels that looked a bit dicey. We were determined, so we headed in.


I was enraptured. The coral at High Rocks is extensive and healthy. The fish were abundant. Everywhere I looked, there was so much to see. My mask was working great, but my snorkel kept filling up with water. No worries…I just kept blowing it out.

It was so beautiful that I failed to notice that Matt had removed one fin because it was rubbing a blister and Alison was swimming in a totally foggy mask. I knew Matt would be fine, because he swims well without fins, but I was concerned for Al because I knew she couldn’t see a thing and there was so much to see.

It was then that I made a near fatal mistake. I offered to swap masks with Alison.

Neither of us thought about how difficult it would be to change masks in deep water with rough surf. I got mine on okay, but it was 100% fogged up and I couldn’t see a thing. Add to that the fact that my snorkel kept filling up and I kept choking on the water. Because I was pretty much blind now, I didn’t see that Al couldn’t get her mask on. Not that she has a giant pumpkin head or anything, but I did have it cranked down pretty tight. I am guessing she couldn’t get it pulled on. The rough waves were making her take on water. Then, she got salt water in her eyes. With her contacts. Now, she was blind too. With no mask. And no snorkel.

Matt was watching us like we were two clowns and realized he needed to get us out of the water before one of us drowned. He said he had one small moment of panic when he wasn’t sure if we both needed help and he was trying to figure out who to help….his wife or her friend whose husband could sue him for wrongful death!

The three of us managed to crawl out of the water somehow. Alison was blind. I was choking on salt water. Matt had a quarter sized blister on his heel.

Big fun!!!


We laughed it off, got our equipment back in order, and headed back in. Attempt #2 was much better than #1. We made the beautiful walk back to Nippers.


We got back to Nippers Beach and spent some time in our beach chairs….but eventually, our crispy skin was SCREAMING for us to GET OUT OF THE SUN!!!! We headed back up to the pool and it was CROWDED.


We found a nice little corner in the shade and we sat in the shallow cool water for a while, watching the madness around us. Have you ever seen Nippers pool on a Sunday afternoon? Yeah. You know what I’m talking about. Have mercy. “Cover the kids eyes, plug your ears, and hope that Jesus didn’t see that” is all I have to say about some of that. Wow!


Needing a little something cool, we stopped at Pirates Cove to grab a punch. The bartender talked us into a shot and we didn’t want to seem wussy, so we did it. Peer pressure is alive and well.

This, my friends, is how to NOT look cool downing a shot:


Alison found the ring and hook game and we thought we would never get her away. She gave it her best shot, but it was not meant to be.


It did, however, give us time to get a second look at Speedo Man. Have you seen Speedo Man? He should carry a warning label. Like a car mirror. “Objects in Speedo appear larger ….”


Just like the day before, the girls gave me all of 2 minutes to get cleaned up before it was time for deck drinks and dinner. Meanwhile, Val’s foot was still hurting from the shell she had cut it on at Shell Island. Cheri took a peek and decided Val needed emergency surgery. Equipped with tweezers, peroxide, and Neosporin, Cheri apparently pulled 2 large conch shells, a bag of chips, and a life jacket out of Val’s foot.


We made it to Grabbers in time for a gorgeous sunset.


And…oh no….Alison found the ring game again. Oh, but wait, she got it!!!!! Go Al!


It was then, much to Matt’s dismay, that we found the hula hoops. Frozen Grabbers and hula hoops don’t mix. Or do they? I think maybe they do.


We ran into Barefoot Man and he remembered us from the night before. How could he not? We were practically his back up dancers. And he sang us Rocky Top. And he sang about Valerie’s real boobies. And he thought Alison’s name was “Alice” and he kept singing “Alice” to her. And…okay…that’s probably enough. You don’t get to know EVERYTHING.


Just like Fritzzzzzz from the other night, we found that while waiting for your food at Grabbers, you meet the most interesting people. There was Cameron, a very sweet young British lad that taught Val how to win the ring and hook game and caused us all (stupidly) to speak in British accents for the rest of the night. There was “No Name Guy” that stumbled up to our table as we were loudly belting out, “What’s going on…” by the Four Non Blondes. He was HILARIOUS. He could barely stand. He stumbled out of the coconut palms, making a zig zagged drunken path toward our table, arms spread open wide and smiling. He got to the edge of our table and used it to hold him up and he started singing with us….”Hey, yeh, yeh, yeh…..” when a very nice gentleman walked up, gently put his arms around him and said, “I know these look like very nice people, but these are not your friends. Your friends are at the next table.” He then took the dazed fellow over to the next table. We fell out laughing. Then there were the weird guys that started chasing each other up and down the beach for money. We never quite figured that one out. Oh…and then there were what we were pretty sure were some ladies for sale and their, um, agents.

When we could pull ourselves away from the entertainment, we had another great dinner. Lobster bites and sweet potato fries washed down with a frozen grabber and all was right with the world.

It also provided much needed fuel for more dancing.



Yes, we returned to the scene of the crime. It was a quiet night at Nippers but that didn’t matter to us. They cranked up the music and we danced all night.

Wool hat guy was there. We also met Fast Eddie (who kept saying he wasn’t all that fast). He may not have been fast, but he made great drinks and he could DANCE. There was also a guy we named, “#3” because we never did know his name, but he had on a #3 jersey. Guess what? He could dance too! And then there was Evans. He was the dancer of all dancers.


These guys were willing to dance with us all night, despite the fact that they were good and we were not. They even tried to teach us a thing or two….but that was fruitless.

We danced so long, Alison blew out her flip flop. Literally. Fast Eddie, who says he is not that fast, fixed it though. Fast Eddie is a man of many talents. He can make drinks, he can dance, AND he can fix a blown flip flop.

The night went long, and we danced under the full moon until we couldn’t dance anymore.

That’s when poor Matt had to take off his dance partner hat and put on his chaperone hat. He tried to gather us all and get us on the golf cart. He’d get two of us out there and then he’d lose one. He’d go back in to find her and he’d get back to the cart and one would be missing. He’d go in after that one and then he’s see two walking down the beach. The next day he said it was like trying to herd a bunch of cats.

I’m pretty sure I remember a moment when he simply stood and shouted, “All of you…get you’re a$$es on that cart!”

Exhausted, we slept deeply…but not long.

Day Four

We still woke up at 6:30 a.m. Ta-da! Hello, sunrise.


I rolled out of bed and stepped onto the floor. “What the????” I nearly fell down. My calves were so tight, I could barely walk. “What’s wrong with me?” I croaked, realizing I had also lost my voice. I whined as I looked at Matt.

He looked at me, and totally deadpan started shouting, “I’ve got a feeling…that tonight’s gonna’ be a gooood night…” while jumping up in the air with his arms raised. “Ring any bells?” he asked, eyebrows raised.

Ouch. Yes. It did.


I followed the smell of slim jims downstairs and asked the girls what they wanted to do with their last day. “Boat day!” they all said, “May as well go home broke!”

Boat day it was. Matt put his boat captain hat back on and Troy hooked us up for the day.

We headed out without a plan.


Still curious about the mooring balls at Fowl Cay Reef, I checked the map.

I laughed.

No wonder! We had been in totally the wrong place. I suggested we go there first and do a little snorkeling. A couple of dolphins escorted us along Guana as we headed out.


We immediately found a mooring ball and did a leisurely snorkel along a great section of reef that literally rose to the surface. I marveled at the gently waving sea fans and the swarms of fish that seemed to follow me as I swam. We hit the boat for chips before deciding to head to Tahiti Beach.


When we reached Tahiti Beach, the long sandbar was just beginning to form. It looked like you could walk all the way to Tilloo. We prowled the shallows and sandbars, we lounged in the clear shallow water with cold drinks, and we listened to island tunes as the waves lapped gently at the white sand.


Sufficiently pruned, sunned, and sanded, we pulled over to White Sound to have lunch at the Abaco Inn.


The view from the place was stunning. Deep blue with whitecaps went as far as the eye could see and a wonderful breeze blew constantly.

I had a conch pearl and an Inn Burger. The burger was almost as good as the view.


It was late afternoon and we decided to make a final stop in Hopetown for some last minute shopping.

Matt now needed both a sun and an estrogen break, so he ducked into Wine Down, Sip Sip to relax in the a/c while we did some shopping.

Vernon was putting out fresh pies in the grocery and I could smell them down the street. Kids ran down the lane with drippy ice cream, getting more on their faces than in their mouths. Bougainvillea spilled brightly over white picket fences. This was Hopetown at her finest on a bright summer afternoon.


When we were pretty sure we had seen every shop there was to see, we bid Hopetown farewell and headed back to Guana.

We took it easy that night, not wanting to keep our pilot out late, so we had a quiet dinner at Nippers. Dinner was GREAT. We all ordered from the Bahamian Platter section, which comes with peas n rice, cole slaw, and mac n cheese. I had the fried shrimp and Matt had the ribs. I really can’t say which was better. Both were great.


It was a one Nipper night and we turned in early.

Day Five

Of course we woke up early.


We caught the 8:00 a.m. ferry and were on our way back to Tennessee that morning.

It had been one of the most fun trips of my life and definitely the most fun trip I had ever had to the Abacos. I will never forget the people we encountered, each of whom did something to make the trip special: Barefoot Man singing Rocky Top, Fast Eddie fixing Al’s flip flop, Evans trying to teach us to moonwalk, Milo trying to sell us a $75 conch shell by telling us that his don’t smell because “the octopus sucks the conch clean out,” Troy & Maria taking such good care of us, Fritzzzzz and his smokessssss, the pimp and his ladies keeping us entertained at Nippers and Grabbers, Cameron teaching Val to win the ring and hook game, Speedo Man strutting his “stuff” all over town, Jerry (aka Fat Calves), Alice….wait…..who the **** is Alice?, “These Are Not Your Friends” guy, Wool Hat Guy and all his fancy footwork, #3 and his moves on the dance floor, the boys that danced the YMCA with us, and the husky pirate dancer.


I will never forget the things that make Guana special: the sunrise and the sunset that take your breath away every day, the bright white of the boats on the electric blue sea, nippers & grabbers, toes in the soft sand, dolphin sightings, infinite sandbars at Tahiti Beach, brightly colored shutters in Hopetown, the smell of Vernon’s key lime pie baking in the afternoon heat, passing on golf carts, hermit crabs climbing the walkway at Shorecrest, Milo’s fruit stand, the googly eyes of a conch peeking out at you before you put his shell back into the water at Shell Island, jumping off the boat into a sea of liquid blue, lobster bites and conch fritters, curly tails, and the sound of the ocean lulling you to sleep.

I will never forget the selflessness of my dear husband, who not only endured 4 women for 5 days but did everything he could to make this trip perfect for all of us.

And I will never forget spending 5 blissful days with my friends. They made me laugh until my sides hurt, they made me dance until my feet were sore, they made me sing until I lost my voice, and they filled my heart with so much joy that words can’t adequately express it.


I will remember this trip as a sea of endless turquoise, of magical moments and wonderful friends and I will keep it locked in my heart like a treasure….like the sparkling bit of a beautiful seashell washed up on a warm, sandy beach that I grab and clutch in my hand as I run off into the sweetly setting sun.


Posted by vicki_h 06:29 Comments (4)

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