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Bahamas

You Can Huff and Puff, But You Can't Blow Guana Down

Guana Cay - The Little Island With a Big Heart

The Stages of Grief Dorian

1 DENIAL: The “It Can’t Be That Bad” Stage

“It’s not going to be that bad,” I said. “I’m sure the media made it look worse than it really is. They exaggerate everything.”

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We were landing at the Marsh Harbour airport 2 weeks after hurricane Dorian.

It was the smell that I noticed first.

A cloud of decay, the smell of rotten meat that has been left in the sun too long, overwhelmed me as soon as we opened the door of the plane.

I stepped out into the hot glare, seeing this place that had always welcomed me immediately with the fresh smell of sea air, a balmy breeze rustling through the bright green trees, and the smiling faces of the guys on the ramp as they greeted us warmly with a hearty, “Good Morning!” like I was seeing it for the first time.

It was just 15 days after Hurricane Dorian came screaming through, ripping across tiny Abaco like a vast beast, bent on destroying everything in her reach. Dorian, the 2nd most powerful Atlantic hurricane since records of hurricanes began, left a massive trail of destruction, reducing this gentle island I loved so much to nothing more than a cosmic pile of rubble, debris, and tangled power lines.

The smell was ever present as we stepped out onto the runway. What was part of the airport was now a twisted hulk of metal…hanger, airplane, vehicles….all rolled into one inseparable mass. The surrounding trees were sheared off, knocked over, those that still stood were stripped and brown. Helicopters buzzed overhead and giant camouflage painted trucks sped past. I looked around as several dirty, rag tag vehicles, salvaged from what was still running made their way around the rubble. Most had significant parts missing, a door twisted off, no mirrors, a cracked windshield. Some had been cobbled together with wire or duct tape. It reminded me more of a scene from Max Mad than my gentle Marsh Harbor airport, what was usually a happy gateway to an anticipated week of bliss.

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Marsh Harbor was chaos. It was the wild west.

There was no customs. No immigration. No officials. No one asked to see my passport. There were just the ramp guys.

Still, they were smiling and greeted us warmly with a hearty, “Good Morning,” but their eyes looked weary. I handed them a box of Dunkin’ Donuts that I carried in my lap from Florida. It was a small gesture for these men that had lost so much.

After a long, hot wait on the tarmac, not really knowing what the plan was, a dusty Mercedes with a busted windshield pulled up.

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We hopped in and headed toward town.

Or should I say, the heap of wood and metal and cement that used to be town?

Windows down because almost nothing on the car still worked, the smell rode with us. It was everywhere. It was everything. As I looked out the window, my eyes couldn’t take it all in. I simply couldn’t process what I was seeing.

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I had seen the photos. I had seen the videos.

Nothing prepared me for the reality.

Beautiful Marsh Harbour was a wasteland. It was as though a giant had taken his fist and simply crushed everything in sight. I guess a giant did, Dorian, that monster.

It was just piles of wood and debris, caved in buildings, flipped over cars, and boats everywhere that a boat didn’t belong. Virtually nothing was left standing and what was standing was utterly destroyed. As I breathed in the smell of decay, I prayed it was only rotting groceries.

Our first task was to try to locate our boat and several others’. We knew approximately where they were and parked the car in the general vicinity.

The guys disappeared quickly, leaving me standing alone in the middle of the street with all our supplies and a busted up Mercedes.

I never once felt unsafe.

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There were people milling around. They paid me no mind. I even had one of the “dangerous looters” go by. He had his arms full of boat electronics…probably from our boat….and he simply nodded his head, smiled, and said, “Hello.” I smiled back and said, “Hello.” He waved with the arm that wasn’t full of looted boat parts and continued on down the road.

He was just trying to survive. I don’t begrudge him that.

I looked around at the massive destruction and what struck me most was the randomness of seeing perfectly intact, normal, everyday objects. It was surreal. There was a twisted heap that used to be a house and lying on the sidewalk was a perfectly good spatula.

I was startled by something behind me and turned around to see a medium sized dog. Its fur was wet and matted and the skin on its nose was raw and stripped. I spoke gently, “Hi there,” and turned to get a sandwich out of the car. By the time I turned around with the sandwich, the dog was gone.

I sat in the street and cried.

It was just too much.

Eventually I saw the guys crawling over an upside down boat. They had found everything they needed.

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It was time to go to Guana Cay.

I wasn’t sure I was ready.

Back at the airport, we abandoned the Mercedes for a pick-up truck that we filled with a generator, endless tarps and roofing supplies, mold spray, tools, fans, drinking water, and a lot of tuna packs. The truck drove us to a recently repaired dock where we simply waited, again, not really knowing what the plan was. We were flying by the seat of our pants.

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After some time, a small 18’ boat arrived.

With 25 mph winds….this wasn’t going to be a fun ride.

The ride over might have been one of the most painful experiences of my life to date. Matt and I took the bow, to spare the others the worst of the ride. They were here because of us, we owed them that. We were on our hands and knees (to save our spines) on top of canvas bags filled with tools…not the softest or most forgiving surface. We both white knuckled the rope tied to the front of the bow for dear life. The little boat slammed down repeatedly, as though it was hitting cement, as wave upon wave met us. Each time it slammed down, we were washed with a fresh wave of salt water. We alternated between grunting, screaming, crying, and laughing. Then it started to rain.

I looked at Matt. “Really?” I said. We laughed again. And then we cried.

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After an hour, we saw Guana Harbour. As we motored slowly up to the island, my heart felt like it was being squeezed. There was nothing left. The bright and happy harbor that I had pulled into so many times, was a pile of pick up sticks, broken cement, and dead gnarled trees. Everything was broken and brown.

We put on a brave face. There wasn’t any time to be sad. This wasn’t a time to mourn. We had too much work to do.

The boat pulled into our dock which was surprisingly intact. About 4 other boats were tied up. I looked at Matt. “Looks like we’re the public dock now!” We were happy to do it. We were happy to still have a dock.

As the guys unloaded, I ran straight for my house. I know that is selfish, in the face of so much loss by so many, but I could no longer contain it. It had been my refuge, my peace, the place where my spirit felt happiness. I needed to see it.

Bikini Hut was standing. She wasn’t only standing, she was beautiful.

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I ran inside, not knowing what to expect.

Everything looked exactly like I had left it except it was all wet. And dirty. Everything fabric was soaked. The rugs were saturated. The walls, floors, and everything inside had a fine layer of funk laying on them. But to me, it was beautiful. Because it was THERE.

I ran upstairs, knowing we had lost a window, so I was prepared for the worst.

It looked like a bomb of glass, sand, mud, trees, and sheetrock had gone off in my bedroom. The bed was covered with what was left of the window and the wall. The floors and walls were covered with everything else.

Amazing that I could look at this and feel lucky. No, not lucky, BLESSED. God blessed. How this home had survived to this degree was simply a miracle. I felt guilty that my home had been spared when almost everyone I loved had lost theirs.

No time for that, I ran back downstairs to start cleaning.

It was 4:00 and we had only a few hours of daylight to get the downstairs clean and dry so we could sleep in there.

We ran over to the Command Center to check in before I got busy making us a dry place to sleep.

The church recreation hall located next to our house had survived, and now served as the new Guana Cay Command Center. It was an amazing bustle of activity. Supplies were being brought in on our dock and transported there. They had the big generator running and inside were tables lined up, supplies, food, water, a kitchen, and the smiling faces of the people we have grown to know and love. They invited us to join them for dinner and asked if we needed anything. Determined not to draw on their limited resources, we thanked them but let them know we’d eat what we brought, but that we’d take all the hugs and smiles they had to offer. They gave plenty. These people who had lost so much.

I was so impressed by how organized and productive they already were. It had only been 2 weeks and the Command Center was already serving as a base of operations for the locals remaining on the island.

We put our name on the board, shared hugs all around, and I got back to the house to do the world’s fastest post-hurricane cleaning ever.

With just a few hours of daylight, I was able to strip all the wet things and drag them outside. Matt said, “Throw all that away,” but I refused, putting everything in piles on the porch where I could try to clean and dry it later. You guys already know how neurotic I am, so this should not surprise anyone…..I was not going to lose any of it. I was determined.

About 15 minutes after dark, what remained downstairs was dry and clean. Using an inflatable solar lamp any my tiny backcountry camping stove, I made us a quick dinner using summer sausage, a pouch of pre-cooked rice, a plastic container of corn, and a pouch of black beans. That night, it tasted like filet mignon. We drank some delicious warm bottled water with it and followed that with a lovely bath taken by sitting in the (now clean) bathtub with 1 gallon of cold cistern water.

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I learned that night that I can wash my hair with shampoo, rinse it, condition it, rinse it again, and wash my body with 1 gallon of water. Don’t tell Matt. I don’t want him to have unrealistic expectations for the future.

With no electricity, we opened all the doors and windows and had 2 on the guest bed, one on the couch, and one on the floor. We were tired, but dry and strangely happy to be there. I didn’t want to be anywhere else.

2 BARGAINING: The “I Can Fix This” Stage

“Cock-a-doodle-doo!!!!”

The rooster was behind the house.

“Are you kidding me?” I rolled over and said to Matt. “That’s one tough rooster. He survived a Cat 5 and is now going to raise a race of super chickens on this island. We should be very afraid.”

“I guess he’s telling us to get up,” Matt said.

We hadn’t slept well. We were all wound up and exhausted at the same time. And it was so HOT.

“Shut up you two,” we heard from the couch. “It’s only 4:30.”

“The rooster doesn’t agree,” Matt said.

There was nothing to do but get up and get busy.

We had SO. MUCH. TO. DO. We didn’t even know how to start. We felt paralyzed by just how overwhelming it all was.

Coffee. I decided to start with coffee. We had a quick breakfast of instant coffee and cold oatmeal and then it was time to face all that needed to be done. We had so much to clean and dry, drywall and flooring to rip out, roof and siding to repair, and someone had to see if they could get us some running water. We had to flip the generator over and see if we could get it working, try to patch up the golf cart and see if it ran, and eventually go see what was left of Teeny Bikini. The water pump was busted, the gutters were off, and there was a dead tree attached to the porch.

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Everyone got busy.

You would think we would have taken a look around. We didn’t.

You would think we would have gone over to Teeny Bikini to see what was left. We didn’t.

We weren’t ready yet. It was easier to just start working. I felt like, “If I can just get these rugs cleaned, everything will be okay. If I can just get the glass out of the upstairs bed, everything will be okay.” Surely there was enough mold spray and tarps to make everything right again.

I worked most of the day without even looking outside. As long as I was inside my house, everything was the same. I could pretend there was no Hurricane Dorian as long as I didn't look outside.

3 DEPRESSION: The “It’s Hopeless” Stage

By about 4:00, I was at the point that I needed to be able to use fans and a washing machine to finish my job. We hadn’t had any luck with the generator at this point, and had no idea if the generator from the other house survived, so I was stuck until we got some power and water going.
“I think I’m ready to go see the little house,” I told Matt. “I’m going to walk down.”

We hadn’t been successful getting our golf cart running. It was sitting in the yard, with no seat, looking quite forlorn.

“Let’s go together,” he said.

We walked down to Teeny Bikini. It was my first real look at things. Front Street was a war zone. Almost everything was reduced to a pile of lumber sprinkled with random, everyday objects. Very few building were standing. Trees were on the ground with electrical wires wound around everything. A huge crater had opened up in the middle of the road in front of the dive shop. Boats sat in snarled piles, some inside buildings, some in the middle of the road. Everything that was lush and green was brown.

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I was in shock.

Somehow, with everything shattered around it, the little house stood. She looked pretty rough, but she was standing. I had SO MUCH HOPE.

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I had to crawl in through a hole in the door where something had busted through because the doors were screwed shut with plywood. When I stood up inside, I could see she was lost.

The floors and walls inside were bent and twisted at the wrong angles. The bedroom was a foot higher than the kitchen, a huge crack opened up between them where I could see the ground through the floor. The house had been picked up by storm surge and knocked off its foundation. The floors were covered with mud and sand. It was all broken inside.

“I’m sorry,” Matt said.

“Can you leave me alone in here for a few minutes?” I asked.

Matt crawled out to go check on the tools and generator sheds.

Y’all….I know it is just a house, but that little house was such a part of my soul. I sat on the wet couch and had a long, ugly cry. The kind where you make terrible noises and snot runs out your nose. The kind that makes you worry you might die. My heart was broken. I remembered exactly 4 years ago, coming down with Matt and Bella and Rooby to make this sweet little house our own. We painted, we scrubbed, we worked so hard and made it our home. Our home on Guana.

It was perfect and precious.

I cried like someone in my family had died. She went through a Category 5 hurricane and STOOD, but she was still gone. Silly, I know, but my heart was so heavy. It wasn’t the house so much as what the house represented. I love what my friend Chris said, “The house is really just a symbol of the love I have for this place…..”

I think this is how we all felt. No one was sad that they lost a boat or a car. Everyone's heart was broken at the loss of this island we loved so much.

When all the tears were gone, I crawled back out the door. Matt was waiting on the street, among the rubble and debris.

“Want to walk down the street to Grabbers?” he asked.

I wanted to.

I didn’t want to.

I couldn’t count how many times we had made this walk. Shutting Teeny Bikini’s happy white front door, holding hands, heading down the palm lined street to get a frosty frozen Grabber and watch the sunset.

This walk was so different.

Grabbers was gone. Even the pool was gone. Lifted and blown away to who knows where.

Matt sat on a downed palm tree and just looked around in disbelief as I walked around the other side of what was left.

When I came back, I stood and watched him and his grief broke my heart.

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We’d been in Abaco for over 24 hours without thinking about the devastation, but it finally hit us. When it hit us, it hit hard, straight into our hearts.

“We can never fix this,” Matt said. “Look around. How can this small island handle this much destruction? How do we even start?”

“One board at a time,” I said.

4 ANGER: The “@##$%&&!!!” Stage

We went through a lot of emotions that first full day. It was like being on a roller coaster.

We got back to the house. It was hot. We were all sweaty and dirty. We’d been working about 10 hours. The stress of the situation was starting to hit me.

I knew I was at my breaking point when John, who had already spent 10 hot hours on my roof told me he used “that rag that was upstairs to clean the baseboards” and my head literally imploded.

I became an insane person.

“WHY WOULD YOU USE A FACECLOTH AS A CLEANING RAG? I HAVE CLEANING RAGS!!!! I HAVE A WHOLE BAG OF CLEANING RAGS AND, LIKE, 3 FACECLOTHS. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING??? &*%$##!!@”

As the 3 guys looked at me like my head was spinning backwards and green vomit was coming out of my mouth, I realized how absurd it was.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I’m not angry about losing a facecloth. I’m angry about losing all of it. All of this. This beautiful island. This way of life. This future.”

The material loss was nothing. What was lost was so much bigger. This place was beautiful. This community was wonderful. Their homes and their livelihoods were important. This life we knew here was so essential to us. And it felt shattered.

I felt hollowed out.

I felt gutted.

I was sad.

I was angry.

I wanted this to be someone's fault. Someone I could punch in the face.

That night, heartsick, we let our island family love us back to life. We let them convince us to join them for dinner at the Command Center. We were grieving and seeing their happy faces gave us comfort. A relief group had brought in a feast of BBQ, mac n’ cheese, baked beans and they were having a party. How could these wonderful people be so full of life and joy in spite of what they had all been through?

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They told us stories of hiding in basements that were flooding by the minute, wondering if they would survive, of living in their bathtub for hours with a mattress over their heads, of running from their home as it collapsed in the winds to another home, of being trapped inside their shattered houses for days as the rain and wind battered them long after the hurricane passed.

I couldn’t believe it. As I watched them all gather for a triumphant photo, and saw their joy in the midst of what felt like such despair, my heart lifted. This is why I loved this place.

This is what superheroes look like.

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We went to sleep that night knowing we were committed to this place. No matter what it became or how long it took. This was still our place. It would always be our place.

Guana was still home.

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5 ACCEPTANCE: The “This is the New Normal” Stage

It was our third day and our second full day on Guana. Our routine had quickly become, get up early, be working around 6:30 a.m., stop for a 15 minute lunch, and work until around 5:00. The days were long and hot and hard. Already, there was no part of my body that didn’t hurt.

I was impressed by the Command Center. The entire island would gather at 8:00 a.m. and share breakfast, and then everyone would go to work.

They were clearing debris from the roads, rebuilding the places where the road had caved in, fixing roofs, getting generators going, shuttling supplies. They would regroup at noon for lunch and return to work. Dinner was a joyful affair at 6:00. Then everyone would go home and do it all again the next day.

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I was amazed at how quickly the landscape and strange daily routine became normal. By the third day in Abaco, it just was. It didn’t seem so strange anymore. It was simply the way things were and it was okay.

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We had gotten one of the generators sort of working the night before on a very limited basis. Matt swiped the water pump from Teeny Bikini and we cobbled something together that almost worked. I needed to run about 9 loads of laundry. Every single thing had to be washed. Matt said to hurry. He didn’t know how long our patches would last and I couldn’t use the dryer because we needed to conserve fuel.

I washed EVERYTHING. With no clothes line and no dryer, I had stuff draped on everything that wouldn’t run away. I had things strung up with chip clips. It looked ridiculous.

The generator and pump kicked off about every 45 minutes, but I managed to get it all done. I have never washed so much in one day. Somehow, I saved everything in that house except 2 rugs and a couple of throw pillows. I think Matt was very sad that all 12 decorative pillows on the upstairs bed survived.

John spent another long, hot day on the roof. Matt did rip and tear on the upstairs. Bob worked on generators and gutters.

It was so hot we probably drank about 10 bottles of water each every day just trying to get through the day. About halfway through the third day I asked Matt, “Don’t think this is weird, but are you peeing much?”

“No,” he said. “It scared me at first but I guess we’re sweating so much we don’t need to.”

It was weird. But apparently normal.

The new normal.

We ate nuts and dried fruit and lots of tuna. We drank lots of warm water. We were still bathing with gallons of cistern water because the pump was hinky.

Every time I looked out my window, the island was so busy. Troy was working on the generator. Mikey was hauling stuff up the dock from the boat. Nedias was shoveling sand into a washed out place on the side of the road. A crew was pouring cement into the caved in street. I heard a chain saw in the distance. Tami and Christine labored at the Command Center.

The entire island was working so hard. We all loved this place so much and it showed in every hour of sweat equity we put in. They had so much momentum and it was catching.

Sometime after lunch, I pushed my big wheeled beach cart down to Teeny Bikini to salvage what I could. I must have looked like a lunatic, crawling out of a hole in the door desperately clutching a box of tin foil and a roll of toilet paper.

I felt triumphant. I might have lost the house, but by God, I have this roll of paper towels. Take that, Dorian!

After two hot, sweaty trips, I had salvaged plenty of towels and sheets, cleaning supplies, dishes, anything from Teeny that survived. It was all I had left. I even managed to get a huge stack of clean facecloths. John could use all he wanted.

It was late afternoon. We were hot and covered with dirt and sweat. We were bone tired and our bodies ached.

“You know what would make us feel better?” I said. “Make us feel normal? The beach. The beach is still there. It’s still the same. Let’s go jump in the water for a minute. It will help, I think.”

It was a good idea in theory.

Y’all….we couldn’t get to the flipping beach!

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Every road, every path, every stairway that led down was blocked, gone, or covered with debris.

We briefly reverted back to the ANGER stage.

“%$#@&!!!”

Then we realized there was nothing to do but laugh. It was sad and funny all at the same time.

Eventually, we found a path that was covered with what was left of two homes and many downed palm trees, but we could crawl over and around it.

We found the beach.

It was different. But it was the same.

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For just a moment, we forgot it all. The sand was still the same white sand. The ocean was still more shades of blue than I could count. The salty breeze still made me feel alive.

If I looked behind me, there was nothing but destruction, but as I faced forward, it was beautiful. We just needed to remember not to look back. We had to keep looking forward.

One board at a time.

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6 HOPE: The “Every Little Thing is Gonna’ be Alright” Stage

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It was our last day. We had to get everything finished so we could leave the next morning and beat some weather to get home.

This was the day everything went from “new normal” to “we got this.”

It started when sweet Christine walked over from the Command Center with a donut.

“You need this,” she said as she put it in my hands. God love her.

Our friend Chris, known island wide for his coffee, had arrived the afternoon before. The damage to his house had been miraculously minimal. More importantly….the coffee machine had survived!

Coffee at Chris’s is a Guana tradition. If the sign on his sunny little yellow cottage is turned to “Hot Now,” everyone gathers on his patio for coffee that rivals any coffee shop I have been to. When Chris told us the night before to come over for coffee in the morning, my heart skipped a beat.

At 8:00 a.m. that last morning, we were sitting on Chris’s patio, sipping a cortado like nothing had ever happened.

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Well, unless you looked at the boat in the middle of the road.

New normal.

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With only one day left, we got busy. John was back on the roof, Matt and Bob were still working on the generator and pump, gutters, and putting something over the back of the house where the siding was missing. I spent the day cleaning what was left of the upstairs and spraying for mold where the wet floors had been ripped up.

I wasn’t taking any chances. I sprayed twice with Lemocide. Then I sprayed 3 times with vinegar. I scrubbed with soap and water. Then, I sprayed twice with bleach. I know they say bleach doesn’t kill mold on wood, but the vinegar did and the bleach just made me feel good.

My entire upstairs smelled like I’d been dying Easter eggs.

By late that afternoon, the roof was temporarily patched, the back of the house was temporarily patched, the window was temporarily patched, all of the wet drywall and flooring was gone, the gutters were back on, and the house was clean and dry.

We hadn’t been using the generator for anything but fans and the washing machine up to that point, because it still wasn’t working right, but that last day we invited friends over for dinner and decided to make things as normal as we could. We decided to make ice, run the a/c, and use lights and showers that night! The water pump kicked off every 45 minutes, but we made it work.

It was time to celebrate.

“And Bob said LET THERE BE LIGHT!”

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I know God said it first, but Bob said it that night. And it was good.

Our friends brought a pork loin they had brought from home and wine they had salvaged from their house. We had champagne that had survived the storm, cold drinks, rice, broccoli, and pasta. After 4 days of tuna, PB&J, and warm water….. it was a FEAST.

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Everyone got a cold shower. It was the best shower ever. Even though the water pump kept shutting off.

As we sat in the now clean den, surrounded by Guana friends, I knew that everything really was going to be alright.

Cheers, to my beautiful little island.

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And just like that, it was time to go.

Does it sound crazy when I say I didn’t want to leave? If I could have stayed and worked beside those people indefinitely, I would have. I felt sorry that I hadn’t had more time to do more for them. We barely had enough time to do what we needed to do.

I struggled with the extreme range of emotions we had gone through in so few days. I really didn’t know how to process what I felt. I’m normally very good with words and I had no words.

So I did all I could – I hugged the people I loved and told them I’d see them again.

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We pinned up the house as best we could, knowing we’d have to return in a few months to put a permanent fix on things.

As we climbed on the boat for another violent and wet ride, I looked back at Guana.

“I’ll be back,” I said in my best terminator voice.

And then I held on for dear life.

I smelled Marsh Harbour before I saw it.

A very wet ride later, we found ourselves once again on Great Abaco with no idea how we were going to get anywhere. Eventually, we simply flagged down a busted up SUV and asked for a ride. He was happy to help.

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As the plane climbed, I looked down at the destroyed landscape below me.

Guana Cay is still there. They are alive and moving forward one board at a time.

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Their homes are either gone or are damaged and patched. They have no electricity and won’t for probably a year. Their jobs are gone. Most of them don’t have hurricane insurance because it’s simply cost prohibitive. No one is going to come in and help them rebuild.

They put in long, hot thankless hours. When their day is done, they don't go home to a comfortable recliner and TV. They don't have a cold beer. They don't have a hot shower. They don't have a closet full of clean clothes. Still, they get up every day and work with joy in their hearts.

Their only clean drinking water is what you give. Their only food is what you give. The only supplies they will have to rebuild their homes and their lives is what you give.

Their lives are forever changed, but they have embraced it and are determined to rebuild. Their spirits and joy are beautiful. Great Guana Cay will be a Greater Guana Cay, but they need so much help.

If this blog has brought you any joy over the years, I ask that you please give something to the foundation set up just for Guana Cay. Donations are being matched dollar for dollar by an anonymous donor up to $1 million dollars. All funds are tax deductible and 100% of the funds will go directly to Guana Cay. This is administered by someone I know and trust.

Please give anything you can through the Great Guana Cay Foundation.

And please don’t forget about them. They need our help for some time to come.

It’s still gooder on Guana Cay.

Much love!

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Posted by vicki_h 10:19 Archived in Bahamas Tagged bahamas abaco dorian guana_cay Comments (8)

Hit Me Baby, One More Time

Back to Abaco we go....TWICE!

I have been SUCH A SLACKER lately! I am going to attempt to get caught up on some trip reports from summer and fall but I have just been so lazy lately!

This will be a very non-trip report blog post. Why? We go to Abaco so much that a "trip report" seems stupid at this point. Right? So, I'm just going to share some funny stuff and some photos and call it a day.

We ended up making 2 trips to Guana Cay in July. One was planned, the other was very last minute.

We scooted down unexpectedly in early July to look at a big sister for Bikini Hut. We love our little Guana cottage, but we love it so much, we've outgrown it! We really needed a second bedroom and Matt was itching for a dock. We had an opportunity to take a look at something, so we ran down with less than a weeks notice.

We hadn't planned to go for the 4th of July this past summer. We had totally sworn off the most crowded week of the year, filled with crazed millennials wearing trucker hats bearing the logo of Daddy's yacht; families with 17 children jockeying for position to see the fireworks; and every yahoo with a boat or jet ski that believed they could make it from Florida. Yet somehow we founds ourselves right down there in the middle of it, sweating in the impossible July heat and dodging the hordes of golf carts that uncharacteristically filled Guana's streets.

We spent a few great days eating our body weight in Bahamian mac n'cheese, visiting our Guana friends, and buying Bikini Hut a big sister.

We founds ourselves back down at the end of July for my birthday - the 10 year anniversary of my ill fated 38th birthday debacle on Guana that ended with one very bruised friend. I'm happy to report that we are older (I'm not sure about wiser) and managed a low key birthday where no one ended up with a black eye.

My favorite moments from the summer trips:

Thinking we were surprising our friends by showing up at their July 4th bonfire unannounced and dressed like creepy clowns only to find out they already knew and we were just two imbeciles in hot latex masks:

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Seeing the ACTUAL Bam Bam at Nippers.

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Spending my birthday on Guana and not ending up like this:

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But instead like this:

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Seeing this:

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Finding out a good friend has surprised me with a new Bikini Hut sign:

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Discovering that there is something even scarier than my childhood Jack in the Box:

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Being in the Bahamas for the opening day of lobster season:

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Discovering that each time my friends stay at Bikini Hut, they appear to have a compulsion to buy giant jars of peanut butter and leave them behind:

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Realizing that I don't only love this place, I love these people:

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To wrap it up, here are some favorite photos from the July trips:

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Up next: FINALLY......Our return to the Greek Islands! Wait for it!

Posted by vicki_h 10:05 Archived in Bahamas Tagged islands tropical bahamas nippers abaco elbow_cay guana_cay grabbers marsh_harbour lubbers_landing Comments (1)

The Cays to Paradise: Boating the Exuma Cays IV

Days 10 - 12: Little Farmer's Cay to Great Exuma

Day 10: The Exuma Blues.

Little Farmer’s Cay to Emerald Bay Marina, Great Exuma (35 miles)

It was our final day on the sea. Originally, we were going to keep the boat out 10 days, but shortly before our trip, we all (wisely) made the decision to bring it in early and spend our last 2 nights in a villa so that everyone could see a little bit of Great Exuma (but mostly because the guys decided they wanted to go bonefishing).

We had to make the final 35 mile stretch in one day, so it would be a long trip.

The day dawned with a spectacular sunrise.

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Rather than spend a lot of time on breakfast, I made waffle sandwiches to go and everyone settled in for the long ride. This part of the trip would be remote and uninhabited islands, no real civilization to speak of. It was a long, final journey through hours of beautiful nothing.

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We had learned to sync our rhythms with the tides. High tide? Move the boat. Or don’t. Maybe just sit and stare at the water. Low tide? Take the dingy and explore undiscovered sandbars or stare at the starfish on the bottom that look close enough to caress. Our skin was salty and our hair was sunkissed.

It was mid-morning and we were far….so far…..from anything. Blue stretched above us and as far as our eyes could see beside us, below us, with only the occasional dot of emerald green island to break it up. We were floating in a sea of gin clear water and we were perfectly alone. Wherever we looked, there was no one there. And it felt as though no one had ever been there. And we were perfectly happy with that.

After 8 days on the boat, we found ourselves lost between the sky and the sea, surrounded by blue. The colors of Exuma defied belief. The words to describe the color of the water haven’t even been created yet.

We officially had the Exuma blues.

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And then we exited paradise and found ourselves at the Emerald Bay Marina.

Just like that.

We made a final lunch on the boat while we waited for our rental car: an antipasta platter and tortellini with salad.

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And then we said "goodbye" to Lion of the Sea.

After a literal eternity (don’t get me started on Airport Car Rental and how grossly unreliable they were), we got one small car for 6 large adults (instead of the van we had reserved). One small car with a huge hole in the sidewall of the tire. One small car that made us sweat within seconds because 4 of us were crammed into the back of an economy sized vehicle. One small car on terrible roads with a tire that could blow at any second, particularly given the number of people jammed inside.

But our villa (https://www.vrbo.com/4715545ha) more than made up for it. The place was AMAZING.

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And what a treat after being on a cramped boat for over a week.

We sprawled out in the spaciousness, drinking in the air conditioning, and lounging in the pool. With a couple of beaches within walking distance, it was a perfect place to wind away what was left of the afternoon.

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Our original plans for dinner were to head to Shirley’s at the Fish Fry. However, given that our boat wi-fi never worked, we didn’t have a reservation. Thinking we could show up on a Saturday in June with a party of 6 and just sit down at Shirley’s was madness.

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It was obvious there was no way they could accommodate our large party without making us wait until midnight or putting us outside with the horrendous swarm of mosquitos, so we cut our losses and headed back to La Palapa at Grand Isle, just a moment from our villa.

What it lacked in ambience and food quality, it made up for in proximity, lack of mosquitoes, and fast service.

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Besides, all we really cared about was getting back to the house and sleeping in an ACTUAL BED.

Day 11: Chattin' & Chillin'.

The guys woke up early and headed off to meet their bonefishing guide. The plan was to meet up at lunch at the Chat n’ Chill.
With no galley breakfast to prepare for the group and all the girls sleeping in, I enjoyed a quiet breakfast and morning by the pool.

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Shortly before noon, with me as the designated driver, we drove our small, crappy car to Georgetown where we caught a water taxi to the Chat n’ Chill on Stocking Island for their Sunday pig roast.

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We two fisted while we waited for the guys to finish up their fishing and join us.

It was our last day together, so we made the most of it – drinks, barbecue, and swimming in the water with the stingrays that Chat n’ Chill is known for.

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We wrapped up the day with snacks by the pool and dinner at nearby La Fourchette, an utterly delightful little restaurant not too far from the villa.

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Day 12: Hey Now, Hey Now, Don't Dream it's Over.

Sadly, two of our group had to head home, so we did a late breakfast/early lunch at La Fourchette before seeing them off to the airport.

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The Knoxville based crew was there for another day, so we moved from our posh villa to the much less posh (and somewhat moldy) Hideaways at Palm Villa to be close to the airport. Our 2 bedroom suite smelled strongly of bleach with an underlying odor of mildew and the hotel bar thermometer registered the inside of the bar at a stifling 96 degrees. Otherwise, it was great.

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Because it was actually cooler outside than it was in the bar, we made the short walk to Jolly Hall beach. On our last trip to Great Exuma, it had been our favorite. Would it still be as beautiful as we remembered?

It was.

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We lounged the afternoon away in the cool water before heading back to clean up for dinner.

Because we had been unsuccessful at Shirley’s the night before, we decided to give it another try and were glad we did.

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We were seated immediately and had frosty drinks sitting in front of us within moments.

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Shirley’s coconut crusted grouper was out of this world, as was the ridiculously decadent coconut cheesecake.

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Not quite ready to let the trip end, we stopped at Blu for after dinner drinks and enjoyed one final, spectacular sunset.

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The trip had been everything we hoped: (mostly) beautiful weather, great friends, and spectacular views through the Exuma Cays. We had truly been immersed in paradise.

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But it was time to go home.

I only wished I could bottle the colors of the sea and take them home with me.

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Posted by vicki_h 07:10 Archived in Bahamas Tagged sailing nassau catamaran exuma out_islands lion_of_the_sea highbourne_cay Comments (5)

The Cays to Paradise: Boating the Exuma Cays III

Days 7 - 9: Compass Cay to Little Farmer's Cay

Day 7: Swimming with the Sharks.

Compass Cay to Big Major Cay: 8 miles

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Compass Cay is primarily known for the bevvy of uber tame nurse sharks that the marina has been feeding and petting for years. They linger around the marina dock and are literally as docile as kittens. After a breakfast of burritos, fried potatoes, and fruit, we decided we'd visit with the sharks.

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We all jumped in and swam around with the big, gentle beasts until we got waterlogged and pruney.

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I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw this post shortly after our trip: shark-attacks-instagram-model

Her quote: “I am so fortunate that I still have my arm and my life."

Seriously? Is this for real? I jumped in and immediately (accidentally) kicked one of these “ferocious beasts” HARD in the head with my big dumb foot. Then, I managed to bop another one in the face as I flailed about trying to move away from the one I kicked. What did they do? They looked sadly at me like, “Why did you do that?” and the moved closer to me so I could stroke their heads.

THIS is a photo of us with these man-devouring beasts. Certainly looks frightening, doesn't it?

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As a PSA for anyone contemplating visiting the Compass Cay nurse sharks that is worried he/she might lose their life, let me give my 2 cents on the “Instagram model who nearly lost her arm and her life:”

  • She did not, in fact, get in the water at the Compass Cay marina where EVERYONE THAT HAS EVER USED GOOGLE (OR INSTAGRAM) KNOWS THE TAME SHARKS RESIDE. She jumped in the fish cleaning station on Staniel Cay where the nurse sharks are not, in fact, tame, are not accustomed to human contact, and know only that dead fish parts regularly get thrown in the water in that spot and the last shark to grab the meat goes hungry.
  • Have you seen a nurse sharks teeth? It’s like getting bitten by a puppy. I suppose a puppy could maul you to death if you gave it a few weeks. Has anyone ever heard of a nurse shark fatality? I didn’t think so. My 6 lb. yorkie mix has left a bigger scar on my arm fighting me for her sock monkey. That girl was more likely to get killed by a falling coconut than by that nurse shark.

REAL shark teeth

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NURSE shark teeth

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She should be ashamed.

  • DO: Go to Compass Cay. Jump in the water with Chunky, Squirt, and Mutt. Swim around with them. Sit on the lower dock at high tide and they will literally slide up onto your lap so you can rub their heads.
  • DON’T: Be a stupid Instagram model and throw yourself in the bait station at Staniel Cay and then publicly wail about the baby teeth that left a mark on your arm.

I am now emotionally moving on.

We needed to move the boat before noon to avoid an additional night’s fee, so we spent a little time lounging on the giant pizza and making the quick walk over to Crescent Beach on Compass– a ridiculous curve of blinding white sand and impossibly blue water.

That, of course, not another living soul was on.

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Compass had been beautiful, but we had dinner plans at the exclusive and private Fowl Cay Resort, so we loaded up with water and ice and made our way south.

Big Major Cay was our stop for the night.

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Unfortunately, Big Major, thanks to the swimming pig phenomenon, has recently seen an influx of mega-yachts and hit & run tourism (boatloads from Nassau gorging themselves on the pigs for mere seconds before being whisked off to overwhelm the next stop).

However, we knew that the area is big and open and there are plenty of hidden secrets if you want to find them.

We nestled ourselves into a private spot on the far end of Big Major – far from the Nassau fast boats and supersized yachts. We anchored at a lovely little private beach that was literally across from our dinner destination at Fowl Cay.

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We snacked on chips & dip and sandwiches before pouring up cocktails and floating the afternoon away on our own private beach.

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For dinner, we had requested reservations at the private island resort of Fowl Cay. If they have space, they will allow boaters to join them at their Hill House Restaurant for a multi-course dinner complete with cocktail hour and all inclusive drinks.

It comes with a hefty price tag, but we all agreed it was one of our favorite meals of the trip.

The dinner experience begins with “Social Hour” at promptly 6:00 p.m. We arrived by dingy and were warmly greeted at the dock and shown to the restaurant with its cozy bar and outdoor terraces with jaw dropping views.

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Appetizers were set out and limitless cocktails were made to order. Let me repeat: Limitless cocktails were made to order.

Danger, Will Robinson.

We draped ourselves on the oversized loungers and sipped martinis as we watched the sun sink on the horizon, like we were Kardashians and did this crap every day.

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We were eventually called in to dinner and seated at a lovely table where our waiter began to bring our first course. We had pre-ordered when we made the reservation, which was another way Fowl Cay ensured a seamless experience.

We were introduced to Lemont, our waiter, as seared scallops were brought and wine was poured.

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Then a sorbet was provided to “clear our palate.” Our Kardashian vibes were in full gear by this point.

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Everyone had opted for the fresh catch and a delicate and delicious mahi-mahi was set before me.

Lemont changed my life with that piece of Mahi Mahi. It was cooked as if it was a sacrifice to the gods.

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I’m not sure how we had room for dessert, but we made it happen.

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Then it was time for 6 overstuffed, overimbibed people to crawl into a dingy and find their boat in the dark.

Day 8: Birthdays and Karma Will Bite You in the Ass.

Big Major Cay to Staniel Cay: 2 miles

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Our very ambitious plan for the day was to do no more than visit the swimming pigs on the other side of Big Major and then hop 2 miles over to Staniel Cay Marina where we would celebrate Matt’s birthday.

It was a glorious morning. We celebrated the birthday boy with brioche French toast with fresh mango and maple syrup.

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Then it was time to visit the swimming pigs. Matt and I had visited the pigs on previous trips to the Exumas, but our friends had never had the pleasure. It had been 5 years since Matt and I had been, and I was surprised at the changes time had brought.

I felt lucky to have seen the pigs for the first time in 2012. They were still under the radar and very little information existed about them on the tangled depths of the interwebs. We were able to enjoy them in relative peace with only a few other people while the pigs behaved like very polite hosts. Hungry, but polite.

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In 2013, they started to get notoriety as they appeared in web-based articles by some heavy hitters like USA Today, Travel & Leisure, Huffington Post, and the New York Post. Thrillist featured them as a “must do” adventure. Then 2015 came and the Bachelor filmed there and it was all over. Bachelor Ben and his awkward group date ruined it for everybody.

Rather than the primary visitors being those vacationing on Great Exuma or, more likely, those staying on nearby Staniel Cay as it was “back in the day,” in the past few years Pig Beach has become a popular day trip for the masses from Nassau.

I have already shared my opinion of Nassau.

Speed boats loaded with bodies zoom over to throw a few turkey wieners at the pigs, take a selfie, and run back to Paradise Island to get a yard long cocktail at the pool bar. Some people even take a day flight from Nassau just to visit the pigs. In the past couple of years, Pig Beach has become so over-instagrammed, over-visited, and over-hyped that it has lost all of its magic.

I have now visited the famous swimming pigs on 3 separate trips, so I feel I have enough experience to dispel what I call the “Pig Beach Myth.”

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Pig Beach Myth:

“Oh you can’t believe your eyes when the boat gets close to the island surrounded by the cleanest, crystal clear, turquoise water and you see pigs frolicking on a deserted sandy beach and cooling down in the water. Wait, pigs? In the ocean? Oh yes. Here on Pig Beach, you will find big, fat jolly pink pigs, kicking their little trotters through the surf, nuzzling up to the side of your boat, and practically dancing on the surface of the glittering water. As soon as you step in the water they surround you and play with you. If you visit Exuma, don’t miss these adorable pink bundles of joy.”

Note: all of the words above are from ACTUAL blog posts. I have taken the liberty of high jacking them and packing them all together into a single, utterly delightful, and absolutely absurd package.

Pig Beach Myth

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Pig Beach Reality:

First, pigs are prone to defecating all over the place. That said, the water at Pig Beach is neither clean nor crystal clear. It’s more of a murky turquoise because it’s filled with pig poo. So, when you gleefully leap from your boat to frolic with these “adorable pink bundles of joy” make sure you keep your mouth closed. Can you say cryptosporidiosis three times really fast?

Second, most of these pigs are not jolly nor are they adorable. They do not nuzzle, they do not play with you, they do not frolic. While a few of them are moderately “cute-ish,” many of them are quite unattractive. Some are HUGE, fairly ugly, and extremely aggressive. They do not want your friendship or affection. They want a turkey hot dog. They are HUNGRY. As soon as your boat gets close enough, they literally charge into the water, circle your boat, and start clawing with their giant hooves (little trotters, my Aunt Fanny) at the sides of your inflatable. If you are brave enough to get into the water, they will chase you mercilessly looking for something to eat. They bite some people (people who don’t have food or don’t run fast enough).

Third, you are not on a deserted beach. This is not a private experience. You will likely be sharing your bucket list experience with at least 842 day trippers from Nassau. Loud, screaming, maniacal day trippers. With turkey hot dogs.

Finally, NO ONE TELLS YOU ABOUT THE DAMN BIRDS. Seriously, people are running around the beach throwing all manner of bread and potato chips blindly into the air in the direction of the pigs (because the pigs are chasing them down the beach). This results in a flock of manic seagulls dive bombing your head trying to get every morsel the pigs don’t get first. Within moments, you’ll find yourself doing your best Tippi Hedren impression.

Pig Beach Reality

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So, let’s recap: Feces, bacteria, 700 lbs of aggressive swine with sharp incisors and hooves wanting to eat anything in the vicinity of your person, hordes of other people with GoPros and selfie-sticks, possible screaming and profanity depending on who got caught without a piece of bread in their hand, and dive bombing birds.

I am absolutely not saying this isn’t an experience. GO. DO IT. I have been 3 times for goodness sakes. Just realize what it is and what isn’t. Don’t expect Babe snuggling in your hand while you exchange pleasantries and establish a lifelong bond. Enjoy the sheer novelty of pigs on a beach, swimming in the water, and trying to knock you down for an apple. Then run back to your boat. With your mouth closed.

Here is a rundown of our visit: Before we could get out of the dingy, the biggest of the pigs was climbing onto the side of our inflatable dingy. I forcefully screamed, “Everyone get out of the boat and run before she pops it!” At this point, everyone grabs their assigned zip-loc full of old sandwiches and starts running. The pigs give chase. Big Momma Karma, the pig leader, bites Matt on the ass. I start screaming, “Drop the sandwiches! Drop the sandwiches!” as he forcefully flings the sandwiches as far from his body as he can get and runs. Meanwhile, some girl from Nassau is literally screaming like she’s being chopped to death by a hatchet as she runs down the beach while her boyfriend stands next to tour operator asking what to do. At this point, I look over and Big Momma Karma has discovered that I left my bag of sandwiches in the boat (because I decided I didn’t want to be chased) and is attempting to climb into our dingy. Matt and I scramble to the boat to throw the sandwiches overboard. As the sandwiches hit the water, a momma pig with 3 piglets immediately swims into the water, piglets swimming beside her, to eat up the floating sandwiches. As they do, one piglet craps all over my feet.

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While our 2012 and 2013 visits were quite nice, this visit left me feeling like a parent that just took her kids to DisneyWorld, spent $97,456 and did nothing more than stand in lines and come home with a heat rash and food poisoning from a $9 hot dog. It wasn’t what it was promised to be.

For me? Never again.

Like any good Instagram Model, Matt feels lucky to have his ass and his life.

After about 10 stressful and disappointing minutes, we were ready to leave Pork Paradise and get the birthday in full swing on Staniel Cay.

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We moved the boat to Thunderball Grotto where we tied to a mooring ball and enjoyed some mimosas and snorkeling.

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We couldn’t move the boat to the marina until the afternoon, so we took the dingy over to the Yacht Club for lunch.

Frozen drinks, burgers, and fish tacos nearly made Matt forget he’d been bitten on the ass by a pig.

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After lunch, we walked to the Pink Store and the Blue Store in an attempt to restock some necessary provisions (i.e., Doritos). As the stock at the Pink Store and Blue Store could literally been anything to nothing on any given day, we did not find Doritos. We did, however, find some old Halloween candy, cheddar cheese Bugles, and YooHoo.

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Afterward, we took the dingy around the cay until we saw a deliciously deserted beach calling to us. We stopped and did some serious chilling and shell hunting until we were too sun parched to do anything but go back to the boat.

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We moved the boat to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club and cleaned up for Matt’s birthday dinner.

SCYC dinner requires that you sign up and order earlier in the day. There are 2 meal times, early and late. We opted for late so that we could enjoy the sunset.

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We started off with shots in the bar and waited for the dinner bell (literally) to ring us in at 8:00.

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Our multi course dinner consisted of cream of cauliflower soup, fresh salads, and your choice of entrée. Obviously, I dove into the fresh lobster. My side? Fries! Does it get any better?

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I must give kudos to the staff at the SCYC restaurant. Not only did they hook us up with a gorgeous private room for dinner, they also make the most decadent chocolate cake and served with candles and singing.

There was a lot of wine and a lot of silliness. There was loud music, boat dancing, and vomiting off the back. There were 2:00 a.m. Ramen noodles.

I would call it a successful birthday.

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Day 9: Sharks and Lizards and Pigs…oh my!

Staniel Cay to Little Farmer's Cay: 19 miles

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I woke up with Ramen noodles in my hair.

The morning after our rum punch birthday bonanza, Matt was moving a little slower than normal. All he really wanted was to go back to sleep. That and to find the small animal that had died in his mouth during the night.

We checked Matt’s ass for gangrene, found none, and enjoyed a breakfast of loaded scrambled eggs, banana bread, and melon, and headed to Farmer’s Cay.

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We had been swimming with sharks. We had been chased by pigs. Why not round things out with a trip to see the giant iguanas on Bitter Guana Cay?

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It was a short hop over to Bitter Guana where we stopped and visited lizard beach for a while. As soon as you pull up, these prehistoric giants come crawling out of the foliage onto the beach, hoping for a dropped grape.

Of course, it made me angry when a tour operator showed up and handed his guests bags of bread to feed to the iguanas. Yes, bread, a natural part of the iguana diet. At least if you are going to feed them, feed them fruits and vegetables.

We tried to feed them grapes. Which they promptly discarded in favor of Wonder Bread.

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Before heading out, we mixed up some morning bloody Marys and mimosas and simply enjoyed the view.

Sometimes you want a vacation that takes your breath away. Sometimes you want a vacation that lets you breathe.

Exuma was both.

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Eventually we made it to Little Farmer’s Cay. We had overnight reservations at the Little Farmer’s Yacht Club. What it lacked in amenities, it more than made up for in personality.

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The personality of its distinguished owner, Mr. Roosevelt Nixon, to be precise.

He makes a mean rum punch.

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We had planned to take the dingy over to Ty’s Sunset on the beach and have lunch, but, as it was Bahamian Labor Day, Ty’s was closed. Instead, we settled in for fried fish and more delicious rum punch with Mr. Nixon.

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After lunch, we took the dingy into the main harbor where we found a quaint settlement, a fresh conch stand, and Deno Darville…the turtle whisperer.

While we waited for our conch salad, Deno convinced us all to don our snorkel gear and, for a few bucks, he would “call the turtles.”

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Not only did he call the turtles, he called Stewie, the cutest puffer fish of all time.

We swam around in the water until our salad was freshly prepared and ready to eat.

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Full of fresh conch salad and our own rum punch, we took the dingy around to Ty’s, just to see what all the fuss was about. It was a beautiful stretch of beach and the little bar and grill looked lovely. I guess we’ll just have to save that for next time!

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We enjoyed sunset on the boat before heading to Ocean Cabin for dinner.

We had enjoyed this place a lot on our previous trip. While Terry wasn’t up to the entertainment and antics of our previous trip, the lobster and ribs were spot on.

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I still wasn’t a fan of the Windex blue drink though. That stuff could strip the paint off a barn.

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Posted by vicki_h 11:43 Archived in Bahamas Tagged sailing nassau catamaran exuma out_islands lion_of_the_sea highbourne_cay Comments (5)

The Cays to Paradise: Boating the Exuma Cays II

Days 4 - 6: Highbourne Cay to Compass Cay

Day 4: Going Nowhere Fast.

Highbourne Cay to….Highbourne Cay: 0 miles

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On our second day, my 98 page itinerary demanded that we depart Highbourne Cay and travel 14.5 miles south to Shroud Cay where we would anchor for the night.

The weather disagreed.

It became clear that we were spending the entire day on Highbourne Cay and wouldn’t be moving the boat until the following day.

It was a hardship being stuck on a beautiful private island, with a comfy slip, shore power, showers, an upscale restaurant, beautiful deserted beaches, and free bicycles, but we made the most of it.

First order of business: Showers. You learn quickly on a boat that whenever an opportunity to take a land-based shower presents itself, you take it.

(The same holds true for a #2)

I whipped up a breakfast of eggs-in-a-basket with avocado slices, fresh tomatoes, and salsa while everyone cleaned up.

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After breakfast, we set out to explore. Highbourne Cay has 8 amazing beaches, each one more beautiful than the last. Highbourne was nearly deserted and we had every pristine beach to ourselves.

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We thought we’d take the bus to visit one of the more distant beaches, but when we saw how long this guy had been waiting, we decided to take the bikes.

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We stumbled on a perfect crescent beach, complete with a lounging pavilion, chairs, a paddleboard, and an outdoor bar where we quickly set up our rum punch assembly line.

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Knowing that we couldn’t do anything or go anywhere was incredibly relaxing.

Eventually, we biked our way back to the Marina for lunch at Xuma. Lunch was as decadent as dinner. Their hamburger was a thing of beauty.

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Then it was back to the boat for clean-up and naps before dinner.

We noticed the beach had a bonfire set up so we inquired at the office and found that we could reserve the beach pavilion and bonfire for dinner – so reserve it we did. It cost $200, but it was well worth it.

Sure, you could probably just show up on the off chance that no one else was using it and use it for free, but we were glad we had a paid reservation when we arrived and a large family had set up camp in the pavilion.

No receipt? No beach for you. They packed up and went to find their own spot.

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Pesto pasta, grilled chicken, salad, bread, s’mores, a beach bonfire and more wine than Trader Joe’s…it just didn’t get better than this. This is what boat trips are all about.


Day 5: Here Comes the Sun.

Highbourne Cay to Shroud Cay: 14.5 miles

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It was still cloudy when we woke up, but the weather looked promising. We made plans over a breakfast of yogurt, granola, and fruit parfaits.

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We had to modify our itinerary to make up for the day we spent on Highbourne and decided to skip a stop at Norman’s Cay and head straight for Shroud. The following day, instead of stopping at Warderick Wells, we’d go all the way from Shroud Cay to Compass Cay.

As we made our way north, the gray skies gradually began to clear. The dark water gradually illuminated, as streaks of electric blue began to appear.

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The skies were clearing as we anchored at Shroud Cay.

Our “routine” became an appetizer and cocktails mid-morning so we celebrated our arrival with bloody marys and a fruit tray.

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Then, we did nothing but lounge in the incredible water with cocktails until it was time for lunch.

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Lunch was a giant platter of nachos, black beans and rice, and one weird circular rainbow around the sun that looked very much like a celestial boob.

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After lunch, it was nearing high tide, so it was a good time to take the dingy for a ride up the shallow mangrove river on Shroud Cay to see what was supposed to be “the most amazing beach ever.”

We navigated slowly through the shallow water, the guys having to get out on occasion to pull us through.

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At the end, the river spilled into the ocean at what was, definitely, the most amazing beach ever.

We pulled out the drinks, parked our butts in the sand, and let the sun and sea take us. We did a whole lot of nothing for a couple of hours.

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Eventually, we made our way back to the boat and cleaned up for dinner. It was nothing more than hot dogs and hamburgers, but with the sea salt air and the magnificent sunset, there has never been a finer meal.

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Day 6: On Thin Water.

Shroud Cay to Compass Cay: 27 miles

Because our power cat only had a 3 foot draft, this allowed us to cruise on the shallow west side of the islands, where the Exuma Bank offers crystalline turquoise and jaw dropping views. We planned to take advantage of the “skinny water” and take our time navigating to Compass Cay and simply enjoy the ride.

Because we had to combine 2 days of travel into one, it would be a long ride. We decided to get up early and have a quick breakfast “to go” of bagels with fruit.

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We pulled out as the sun was just peeking into the day.

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To break up the long day, we planned to stop at Cambridge Cay to visit the sandbar. This meant our morning would take us 22 miles. The weather had completely cleared and we finally saw that Exuma water we had been dying for.

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We stopped for lunch at Cambridge Cay: sesame seared tuna with noodles.

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After lunch, we took the dingy to explore the sandbars and shallow waters around Cambridge Cay.

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Then, it was another 5 miles to Compass Cay, famous for its tame nurse sharks.

We had reserved a marina slip, which was no easy feat. Compass doesn’t have bathrooms, showers, or a regularly operating restaurant, but we had shore power and it was just nice to get off the boat and stand on a non-moving, non-wet surface for a bit.

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We enjoyed a sunset platter with wine before grilling up some steaks and calling it a night.

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Posted by vicki_h 09:05 Archived in Bahamas Tagged sailing nassau catamaran exuma out_islands lion_of_the_sea highbourne_cay Comments (3)

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