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20 Things I Learned on Guana Cay….Redux.

I started this blog 5 years ago after an ill-fated trip to Guana Cay with our good friends John and Teresa. Two black eyes, a busted boat propeller, a slide down a boat ramp, sunburned lips, power outages……..Everything that could go wrong on that trip did and it inspired me to start writing about my travels.

Well, we’ve made a lot of trips to Guana Cay since then, but it took 5 long years for our friends John and Teresa to decide to return. We made the trip in August, exactly 5 years after the first trip.

A lot can change in 5 years.

So, let’s try this again. Here are 20 NEW things I learned on Guana Cay.

#1. There is no sunrise more beautiful than the first morning you wake up on Guana Cay.

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#2. There’s no such thing as “too much mac n’ cheese.”

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#3. The Nippers Sunday Buffet is so much more enjoyable when it’s not in your lap.

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#4. There is no greater joy on earth than the first time you make it on the hook and ring game at Grabbers.

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Unless it’s the first time you make it on the “around the pole hook and ring game” at Lubber’s Landing.

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#5. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with eating 3 burgers in 3 days.

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#6. The best days are the ones where you do nothing at all.

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#7. You might as well JUMP.

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#8. Dreams can come in the shape of a dirty bobber hanging on a tree.

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#9. There are more shades of blue than you can count.

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#10. You can watch the same sunset from the same spot every night and it never gets old.

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#11. There is nothing cuter than a dog jumping with happiness across the beach, even if the sand does end up in your bed.

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#12. Don't drink and Jenga.

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#13. Three rainbows in 3 days is almost as good as 3 burgers in 3 days.

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#14. No matter where you go in Abaco, there is a deserted beach with your name on it.

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#15. Sometimes it’s okay to break the rules.

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#16. There is absolute joy and wonder to be had in the simplest of moments.

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#17. If you don’t like where you are….just get in the boat.

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#18. The best walks don’t take you anywhere.

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#19. When you are happy, time doesn’t matter.

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#20. Spending your birthday with good friends on Guana Cay can be the best weekend ever.

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Now repeat after me: There’s no place like Guana. There’s no place like Guana. There’s no place like Guana…..

Posted by vicki_h 12:48 Archived in Bahamas Tagged island caribbean tropical bahamas abaco guana_cay Comments (2)

Stranded Naked in Abaco

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We should have known better than to plan a trip to the Abacos during a week when there were three, yes….THREE….big beach parties. I can barely keep myself in check when there is just the one Sunday Pig Roast at Nippers. However, the first week in July we found ourselves faced with the Sunday Pig Roast, the Stranded Naked Cheeseburger Party, and the 4th of July Celebration at Nippers.

Oh dear.

I have to apologize in advance to my mom and dad. And to my Granny. All of them will be reading this, trying to figure out what they did wrong all those years ago when they tried to teach me how to behave in public.

I’m sorry.

I did not behave like a lady. I did not use my inside voice. I did not eat my vegetables. I did not wait an hour after eating to get in the pool. I did not wash my hands before I ate. I did not act my age. I took candy from strangers. I talked with food in my mouth. I stayed up after midnight. I ate dessert for breakfast and ran through the house with scissors. I put my feet on the table. I jumped in the ocean without a life jacket. I wore that skirt that was too short.

An no, my face did not freeze that way. I did not catch my death of cold. I did not go blind. I did not fall and crack my head open.

I had the time of my life.

Day One:

The flight down to Abaco never disappoints me. The views from above are nothing short of a miracle of nature.

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I have to start by showing you photos of the trip down. I can’t help it. It’s a compulsion. I always take photos of the flight, the ferry, the plane. I can’t help it. I want you to know how I got there. Otherwise, I can just imagine you, dear reader, sitting in front of your computer screaming, “BUT HOW DID YOU GET FROM THE AIRPORT TO THE FERRY DOCK???? HOW???!!!! Did you take a bus? Did you ride a donkey? Did you hire a pedi-cab? For God’s sakes, I have to know!”

I just can’t do that to you.

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After an easy landing and a quick taxi ride, we found ourselves at Curly Tails with about an hour to spare before the Guana Cay ferry. That should have been enough time for drinks and lunch. Should have.

We had just ordered up some Bahama Mamas to kick off the trip when the 4 horses of the apocalypse came bearing down on us at breakneck speed.

The sky went from this:

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to this:

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in about 10 seconds. In case you don't see it, that is a wall of storm coming right at us.

We were soaked by the time we ran down to the ferry dock and grabbed our luggage. I think I ripped a shoulder muscle as I dragged my too heavy bag up the staircase. Then the power went out. And stayed out. We ran onto the ferry an hour later soaked and starving.

When we got to Guana, we didn’t even unpack or get cleaned up. We just headed straight to Grabbers for some dinner. That’s one of the many things I love about Guana Cay. No one cares if your hair looks like a wet dog and your clothes are a mess. Heck, you don’t even need shoes. Just come as you are.

A chicken-in-da-bag can cure a lot of ills.

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As can meeting a new friend.

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We called it an early night. We were tired and disheveled.

What we didn’t know was that “tired and disheveled” was pretty much going to describe us for the rest of the trip.

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Day two:

Good morning, Guana Cay!

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There is nothing I love more than a long, slow walk on the beach to watch the Guana sunrise.

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It was Sunday, so we made our way to Nippers. Of course we did.

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On every trip to Nippers on a Sunday I swear this will be the Sunday that I behave. It will be the Sunday that I don’t give in when the frozen Nippers start flowing and the young girls start dancing. The Sunday that I don’t have that extra frozen Nipper and find myself front and center, dancing badly, the oldest person in a bikini, singing loudly to the Village People.

That Sunday never seems to come. Before I know it, the Cupid Shuffle is playing and I have that extra Nipper. I pull out all my bad dance moves. I step on people’s feet. I frighten their children. By the end of the afternoon, I feel a need to throw an apology to the universe.

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Things always start off well. I am incredibly well intentioned. We found a table, enjoyed the view and sampled the buffet. We laughed with friends. We made new friends. It was all very civilized.

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But then these guys showed up and all hell broke loose:

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You know it's going to be a memorable afternoon when the patriotic thongs come out.

I know some people find the behavior at Nippers over-the-top. I remember reading one trip report where someone made fun of people dancing that thought they could dance but couldn’t. The way I see it, there is nothing better than a place where a person who dances badly can feel comfortable doing it.

Hello. My name is Vicki. And I am a bad dancer.

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Nippers is a place where those of us who are fairly uptight in our normal lives can let our hair down in a safe setting.

We had fun that day. Fun that I know I am technically too old for, but when those days come along, I find it’s best to just jump in and grab them. One day, they’ll stop coming.

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Somehow, we all made it out the other side intact.

The best end to a day at Nippers is a pizza at Grabbers. So, with the final rays of the setting sun, we ended the night. Sure, we were tired and disheveled, but we had made memories that we wouldn’t forget.

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Day Three:

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Looking forward to a quieter day, we decided to take the boat to north Guana. It was very windy and this seemed like a good way to test the boating conditions before we got overzealous.

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I agree that Bakers Bay is the root of all that is evil on Guana Cay. I would prefer that they had never developed the pristine end of this beautiful island. When I see those beautiful beaches now covered with mega-mansions, it makes my heart hurt. I remember when it was nothing but a blinding stretch of perfect white sand, fringed with palms that waved ever so slightly in the breeze, with the bluest waters of the island lapping gently at the shore.

But Bakers Bay is there now. There’s no stopping it. And I have to admit that I do like the restaurants. They provide a much needed break from bouncing back and forth between Nippers and Grabbers, which we tend to do like a giant, over-carbed volleyball.

On the way to the beach, we stopped at the Conch Shack for lunch.

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This drink was not only delicious, it was gorgeous. Like a little tie-dye cup of happy.

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The shrimp salad was to-die-for good. Giant, plump grilled shrimp on a bed of lettuce drizzled in creamy balsamic goodness and topped with fried onions.

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We wandered around the grounds a bit. After eyeing a dress in their clothing boutique that turned out to be $1050, I started wondering if I was in the Hamptons again and decided it was time to get back on the boat before I started getting an inferiority complex.

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It was too windy to make it all the way around the point so we stopped a bit short and couldn’t have been happier.

It was a slice of heaven.

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This is my favorite thing to do on Guana. Nothing compares to an afternoon spent on a long, deserted stretch of perfect beach, when the water is calm and clear, the colors changing from bright turquoise to cool blue to indigo as the ocean stretches toward the horizon. The boat rocks gently in the water and the soft sounds of the radio fill your head as you do nothing more than float on an endless sea.

It is my perfect moment.

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That evening, we had a potluck of sorts. We met up on the deck and several households brought what they had. We had been given a ridiculous amount of fresh caught fish the day before by some guys that were flying home and didn't want to carry it with them.

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There was grilled fish, peas n’rice, salad, tuna sashimi, and a chocolate concoction that I had managed make with the weird ingredients I had mish-mashed together from the grocery store.

It was so much better than those potluck dinners we used to have at work sometimes, where we always ended up with some overcooked sausage balls, four dishes of baked beans, and weird tuna salad.

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Good-night, Guana.

Day Four:

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The boating had been good the day before, despite the wind and choppy water, so we decided to make it an Elbow Cay kind of day.

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We hit Tahiti Beach right at low tide. Tahiti amazes me because it never looks the same twice. This time it was more blue than green and the sandbar had made an impressive entrance.

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We caught Austin from Lubbers Landing doing his thing. He was amazing on that kite board.

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The guys anchored the boat.

Or so we thought.

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Everyone was wandering about in the shallow water, spread from here to there, when a stranger started waving frantically at me. I was halfway to Tilloo, wading through the shallow water so I couldn't hear what he was saying. He was shouting and jumping up and down.

Because I couldn’t hear what he was saying, and because he looked positively frantic, I jumped to the only logical conclusion: there must be a great white shark behind me.

Holy Crap! I started running toward the sandbar, certain that death was upon me. I was in knee deep water, so this was not a graceful run. I was high stepping it like a drunken drum major. I was going so slow that I might have been going backwards.

I was nearing a panic attack. Not a butterflies in the stomach panic attack. Not a going down a roller coaster panic attack. Not a nervous first date panic attack. No. I felt like I was about to jump into a pit of rattlesnakes while being chased by clowns.

Not funny clowns. The scary kind.

My heart was racing. My breath was pounding. That little vein in my temple even started to throb. I couldn’t move fast enough. I would have simply curled up in the fetal position if it hadn’t been for the fact that I would have drowned. And then gotten eaten by that shark.

Dammit. I KNEW this would eventually happen if I came to the Bahamas enough times.

He was still jumping and waving. I knew the end was near.

That’s when I got close enough to hear him.

He was not shouting, “There’s a big freakin’ shark behind you,” as I was certain he was. No. He was saying, “Is that your boat?”

I was so confused that at first my brain couldn’t process the question.

Shark? Boat? Shark? What?

That’s when I saw a tiny speck on the horizon that I recognized as our boat.

Oh dear God. The panic attack was back. But this time the clowns had machine guns.

Matt and John were REALLY, REALLY far away and I had no idea where Kelley was. Holy hell. I was already exhausted from the shark run. Now I had to run to the other side of the universe to tell them the boat anchor hadn't held and the boat was well on its way to Africa. So now, I was running toward them, still high stepping it through the water, but this time I was the one waving my arms and shouting.

I was like Tattoo from Fantasy Island. “Da boat! Da boat!” I screamed as I flailed and ran. I knew they figured out what was going on when I saw the “Oh shit” look on their faces.

That’s when they started running.

So now, all three of us are running, knees to chin, through the water, screaming. I’m not sure if we thought we could run to the boat, which was now at Lubbers Quarters, but we kept running because we didn’t know what else to do.

By the time we reached the sandbar, we realized a stranger had taken his boat from Tahiti to retrieve our runaway. He was towing it back to us. I have said it before and I will say it again: you won’t find kinder people on any island anywhere than you will in the Abacos.

To the stranger that saved our boat that day: Thank You.

And I am sorry if I scared your little boy when I was running and screaming about sharks and clowns.

The guys got the boat PROPERLY anchored and we resumed our beach day.

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As though giving us a little gift to make up for the Great Boat Chase of July 2013, God provided the Tahiti Beach Hot Tub.

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We found this perfect little spot after wading through the shallow water toward Tilloo. There it was, a perfect circle of white sand in the midst of an endless bed of sea grass. It was about 2 feet deeper in this one spot than the seagrass bed around it.

How unbelievably cool. We made it ours and dropped in to relax with some cold drinks until our fingers pruned.

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All the running and screaming had left me famished, so we loaded up in the boat, which was blessedly still nearby, and motored over to Lubbers Quarters.

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Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better than the saltwater margarita, they had to go and dazzle me with the caipiroska. The recipe says: two muddled limes, organic cane sugar, & 3 oz of Stoli vodka. What it doesn’t say is that she oozes this amazing sugar syrup on the top.

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As we waited for our food, the guys became obsessed with the “around the pole hook and ring game.” I think men just like anything that involves a floor to ceiling pole.

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Or maybe they were just enticed by the free shot of Patron for a successful ring.

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I decided to have the island burger – a ground tuna patty filled with some kind of mysterious spices, so delicious that it makes my mouth water just to think about it. I think they are putting a narcotic in there. Because I’m pretty sure I’d be willing to knock over an old lady or a small child to get at one of those burgers.

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After lunch, we all agreed that the dockside sofa at Lubbers Quarters is the single most perfect spot in all of the Abacos. Maybe in the entire world.

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Back on the boat, which we kissed every time we saw it, thankful it wasn’t in Cuba by now, we motored over to Hopetown to grab a drink at the Reef Bar.

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We were excited to see that Gary was back! The last time we visited, he had moved across the harbor, but it was great to see him back where he belonged.

The Reef Bar just isn’t the Reef Bar without Gary.

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We had enjoyed our lunch at Bakers Bay the day before enough that we decided to try it out for dinner. Okay, we really went because I had packed a maxi dress and where else are you going to wear a maxi dress on Guana????

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The guys were still all jacked up from that free Patron and it was all we could do to keep them in the cart long enough to get to the other side of the island. Random bouts of erratic street dancing kept delaying us.

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We finally made it. I hate to admit how pretty Bakers Bay is, but yeah, it’s pretty. Even at night.

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We grabbed a table outside the Market Restaurant. Only on Guana Cay will you find that the restaurant that comes the closest to “fine dining” is a combo grocery market-deli-restaurant with a table of souvenirs thrown in for good measure. Reminds me of the Video-Tanning-Gas Stations we have back home in TN.

The setting was lovely, the drinks were tasty, and the food was delicious.

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After dinner, we wandered down to the waterside bar. That’s when John spotted the bell.

You know how you can’t help but pop bubble wrap when you see it? That was John with that bell. He was mesmerized. He just couldn’t help but ….…..ring it.

As soon as he did, the bartender said, “All right everybody! This man’s buying a round!” Everyone clapped and she proceeded to go around the bar and take everyone’s order.

$120 worth of drinks later, we knew what the bell was for.

Thank goodness there were only 12 other people at the bar. Dear lord, what if there was a bell at Nipper’s??? You could end up with a second mortgage on your house.

It was worth every penny to see the look of disbelief on John’s face. Every. Penny.

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We managed to make it through the night without Johnny ringing another bell. Actually, he’ll probably never ring another bell. Ever.

Day Five:

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For an island chain that hosts one of the biggest beach parties in the universe EVERY SUNDAY, you’d think there couldn’t be anything too special about simply moving that beach party to a different location and calling it by a different name, right? No, this wasn’t the Nippers Sunday Pig Roast. Today was July 3rd. This was the Stranded Naked Cheeseburger Party.

A small, uninhabited cay just off of Green Turtle has become the host to one of Abacos biggest parties of the year. What began as a few friends grilling up some burgers on the beach has become hundreds of boats, 1200 cheeseburgers, 100 turkey burgers, 450 hot dogs, 450 pounds of french fries, 100 gallons of margaritas, and 100 gallons of rum punch. Throw in some temporary tattoos, hula hoops, a limbo contest, and top it off with some Jimmy Buffet music and you have the annual Stranded Naked Cheeseburger Party on Fiddle Cay.

Did I mention that it is all FREE?

No one is actually naked.

At least I didn’t see them.

It’s just a big beach party and everyone who has a boat is invited.

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We had never been, but we always wanted to go. Just to see what it was all about. We had timed our trip to coincide with the event this time. We were finally going to get stranded naked. The ride over was filled with the beautiful sights we have come to expect from the Sea of Abaco.

When we arrived at Fiddle Cay, I knew quickly that this was no Sunday Pig Roast.

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Crewed yachts were tying up to dingys. Luxury power boats with triple 250s were saddled up beside rental Whalers with 75 hp engines that were jimmied up with duct tape. Hundreds of boats were carefully placing themselves around a deserted island as what looked to be about a thousand people drifted in the shallow water toward the shore.

Pool floats were blown up and set adrift. Tables and chairs were erected in the water and tied down with cement blocks and rope in a manner that would have made McGuyver proud. The smell of grilled beef and boat fuel filled the air as Jimmy Buffet music pumped out of the speakers, competing with a hundred different boat radios. Depending on which way your turned your head, you could listen to Margaritaville, Zac Brown, or Daft Punk. Girls in bikinis strolled through the water with coolers full of beer tied to their waists, men carried gallons of rum punch on boogie boards, beer bongs flowed off the backs of cruisers.

For a people watcher like me, I’d hit the mother lode.

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As we wandered up toward shore to find the cheeseburger line, a guy in a bandana and sunglasses approached me.

"Are you our photographer?" he asked, eyeing my giant camera.

"Um....no," I replied.

"Do you want to be? Meet me at that sign in 9 minutes. I have to go round up some girls in bikinis."

And that, my friends, is how I got commandeered to take the sponsor photos for the Stranded Naked Cheeseburger Party.

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My compensation was excellent: a temporary tattoo, a free tank top, and....the best part....I got to get in the front of the cheeseburger line.

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Walk softly and carry a big camera, I always say.

It was a crazy afternoon, as more and more people arrived. I think I heard one person say that they waited in line for 4 hours for a burger. Drinks flowed. Music pounded. Frisbees and footballs flew through the air. Girls danced on the backs of boats. Kids did backflips in the shallow water. Dogs rolled in the sand.

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I have never seen anything like it.

Oh, dear sweet Jesus, my hair – I was tapping my inner Chewbacca.

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We stayed until late in the afternoon, and as the sun began to drop low in the sky, we saw how much the wind had picked up and realized it was going to be rough going back to Guana. The seas were choppy and rolling. The waves were big. We had an hour long ride.

As we unhitched ourselves from the safety of the giant motor yacht next to us and began rocking to and fro as we motored out of the protected shallow waters, I began to regret eating that hot dog and fries after I finished my hamburger and knew I never should have had those last couple of drinks that stranger was pouring out of a gallon jug. I wondered just how long it would be before I threw up on myself.

Matt gave us all some really good boat advice before we hit it: "Hold on. Don't fall out. And if you have to puke, do it with the wind, not into it. Hang on!"

And away we went. As we hit against the first wave with a smack, raising my butt about 6 inches off the seat as the boat started bouncing violently against the water, I instantly knew this boat ride was going to be awful. It's all fun and games until someone loses a bikini top. Or their last meal.

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Thankfully, we all made it back without anyone getting sick, although I'm pretty sure I had chipped a couple of pieces off of my tailbone.

We had a quiet evening at Pirate's, wolfed down some ribs and lobster, and went to bed thanking the sea for not capsizing our boat.

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Day Six:

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It was July 4th, and although Bahamian Independence Day is celebrated on July 10th, Guana Cay was celebrating Uncle Sam all day long. We knew that Nippers was having a big party later in the afternoon, and we were all still a little rubber legged from the previous day's boating, so we decided to chill at the house for the morning and have a good, old fashioned cook-out for lunch.

First, we made a morning run to see the dream tree. People hang their dreams on this tree.

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Apparently, most peoples' dreams look a lot like dirty mooring balls and bobbers.

We grilled up the rest of the fish for lunch and paired it with a key lime pie we'd found at the Grocery that morning.

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We also found Harrison.

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Typically, I would describe a little boy as noise with some dirt on it. But Harrison might have been the coolest kid I ever met. And the cutest. We thought about making his parents an offer, but we were pretty sure they wouldn't sell him.

After lunch, we stopped at Dive Guana to take a look at a boat that had run up on the rocks earlier in the week. This is called "How to ruin a vacation in 10 seconds flat:"

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Ouch.

Then it was time to head back to Nippers, the scene of Sunday's madness.

You know that old saying about learning from your mistakes? Yeah, well, that doesn’t apply to me so much. I make a lot of mistakes. Like, a lot of them. And every time I do something stupid, I say to myself afterwards, “Self, we are not going to do THAT again.” A couple of days later I do that again. I don't know. Maybe I’m just a really slow learner, and one day I will eventually learn not to repeat my mistakes – like when I’m a hundred.

Or when I’m dead.

I think a better saying for 2 Nippers parties in one week is "Like a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly."

Sigh. Here we go again.

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As it always does, it started off nice enough.

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But then these guys showed up again.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to Nippers.............. the thongs come out again.

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Let's just say there was a lot of patriotic enthusiasm that day.

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Things really took a turn when this huge group of guys showed up with a bunch of scantily clad girls and started buying TRAYS of Nippers and passing them out to everyone. TRAYS, people. TRAYS OF FREE NIPPERS.

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Sweet funky moses.

Apparently, Lindsay Lohan is not the only person spending her fortune on booze and hot pants.

When the 3rd tray of drinks showed up, we knew it was time to get out of there before someone needed a stomach pump. We headed to Grabbers to bring things down a notch.

Steel Daddy was playing and the sun was putting on a dazzling display.

Matt and John did a little paddle boarding and we snacked on some ribs and pizza.

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We headed back to Nippers to catch the fireworks with Harrison.

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Day Seven:

The guys got up really early the next morning to go fishing. The sky was exceptionally gorgeous that morning.

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The sea had been rough all week. And Matt and John had more than their share of those free Nippers the day before. Even a Grabbers pizza couldn't cure a free Nipper hangover.

They looked a little green.

Rough seas, the smell of bait, and a slight hangover did not sound like a good combination to me. They were just asking to get sick. They were both a little worried. "Should we take some Dramamine?" I heard John ask Matt as they headed out.

The feeling of seasickness starts as a distressful lurching in the stomach. Then there is that slight dizziness that comes when you get a nose full of boat fumes wafting through the air. You then find yourself making a heroic effort to force your stomach contents to remain in their rightful place, only to end up leaning over the railing, hoping no one will notice, as you hurl to the sea.

It happens to the best of us and I was pretty sure it was going to happen to one of them before the morning was over.

Poor John. Apparently, he was the one that the vomit fairy paid a visit to that day.

There is no good way to vomit politely on a fishing boat when you are a guest. I am guessing that he first went through a stage of denial. If you've ever been there, you know. That's when you start to feel a little green, but you look at your fishing companions and say, "Wow. I feel really good. Don't you? It's refreshing out here. I love the smell of that bait."

Denial is a bad idea when you are a guest on a boat and you know you are getting seasick. Why? Because what you should be doing is immediately moving into position. The only thing worse than vomiting in front of the other guys on a deep sea fishing trip is vomiting on the other guys on a deep sea fishing trip.

Hopefully, he was smart enough to vomit with, not into, the wind. Releasing your breakfast is bad enough. You don't want it to blow back on you so that you not only get to experience it a second time, but a third.

Despite the fact that he was probably gray and was no doubt wobbling around the boat in a manner that made the other guys wonder if he was about to die, John did what any man would do when seasick on a deep sea fishing trip.

He stopped. He barfed. Then he fished.

A little vomit never stopped a man from fishing. It takes a real man to haul in two giant tuna while tossing his cookies over the side of the boat.

While the guys fished (and vomited), Kelley and I slept in. Then we took a run into town to visit Bear, the dog king of Guana, and to do some shopping at Gone Conchin', a great place to lighten your wallet if it's too heavy for the trip home.

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When the boys returned, we packed up the boat and headed to Man-O-War.

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We pulled the boat into the shallow beach that sits at the narrowest point on the island.

It was amazing. The island is barely the width of the road, with the sea on one side and the ocean on the other.

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Since it was our last day, we had made a picnic lunch of all the food we had leftover. It reminded me of Sunday nights when I was a kid. We ate all the leftovers from the week and called it "FFY Night." This meant "fend for yourself." There was never enough of any one thing to make a meal, so you ended up with a little bit of this and a little bit of that until you had enough to call it a meal.

A bbq rib, half a sandwich, a bite of potato salad, a handful of Doritos, an orange slice, and three Fig Newtons.

With that view, it could have been chateaubriand and creme brulee and it couldn't have tasted any better.

After lunch, we headed into the harbor to visit the sail shop.

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We hadn't gotten 3 steps from the boat when a little golf cart pulled up with a white haired lady and a box full of still warm cinnamon rolls.

Miss Lola!

I greedily handed over my $7 and clutched my still warm rolls like a prize. I think at one point I was stroking the bag and whispering, "my precious...." but I can't be sure.

I can tell you that the rolls got eaten before I remembered to take a picture of them.

Yes. They are that good.

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We enjoyed picturesque Man-O-War before calling it a day and heading back to Guana.

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For our final dinner, we decided to try the reopened restaurant at Orchid Bay. The first thing we noticed was that it had a spectacular sunset view.

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The Greek salad was fresh and the lobster was incredibly tender.

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We wrapped it up with a final Grabber as the lights of the sailboats bobbled about in the harbor.

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Day Eight:

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It had been a full week of overdo. I had eaten enough sugar to put a diabetic into a coma and had more fried food than can be found at the Texas State Fair. I hadn't gotten enough sleep, my rear end had boat sores, and my calves were sore from one too many bad dance moves. I was dehydrated, exhausted, and my pedicure was badly chipped. I probably needed a liver transplant.

Don't worry. I promise to run five miles as soon as I finish typing this paragraph and eat nothing but fruits and vegetables for the next 10 days.

After all, I'm headed back to Abaco in a few weeks.

I gotta' get ready.

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Posted by vicki_h 07:41 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beach island tropical bahamas abaco guana_cay Comments (7)

Surviving Guana With the In-Laws

“What do you think about taking my family down to Abaco?”

He may as well have said, “What do you think about shaving your head?” or “What do you think about painting the house royal purple and putting on a glitter roof?” or even “What do you think about me tattooing a unicorn on my forehead?”

It’s amazing how 11 simple words calmly uttered by your spouse can make your heart stop, all your saliva disappear, and can make you consider suicide for the first time since you were 14 years old and accidentally turned your hair bright orange with a bottle of Sun-In.

I did what any good wife would do. I smiled and said, “I think that’s a great idea.”

Then I Googled “Painless Ways to Kill Yourself.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love my in-laws. Actually, as in-laws go, I’m pretty lucky. They are pretty great. But, oh my….a vacation filled with 18 year old girl drama, 9 year old boy energy, and 75 year old lady…well….whatever 75 year old ladies do. I had visions of National Lampoon’s Vacation running through my head.

Let’s just hope Nana didn’t end up tied to the top of the golf cart before the trip was over.

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“Are We There Yet?”

I thought that question was a joke that kids say in the movies. In reality, they ask it every 7 minutes. On a 4 ½ hour flight, that’s exactly 39 times.

We had Nana Jo, the 18 year-old princess, the 9 year-old boy, and my two fat dogs in the plane. Sure, it’s a 6 seater, but that is more of a suggestion than a reality. In reality, it’s perfect for 4 people and some stuff. Put 5 bodies, 2 dogs, the boy’s backpack, Nana’s big beach hat, the princess’s MASSIVE purse which must have had 786 sparkling keychains, whatnots, and do-dobs hanging off it and it begins to feel a bit….cozy.

Matt’s sister and her husband were blessedly alone on a US Airways 747 and would meet us later. Never have I been so envious of someone on a commercial flight. Being felt up by TSA had to be better than enduring 5 hours of hot dog breath.

Survival Tip #1: On travel day, plan for plenty of needed breaks – rest breaks, bathroom breaks, crying-in-the-bathroom-for-you-breaks.

As I sat with 30 pounds of hot, panting dog on my lap, my knees pushed up behind my ears to make room for the backpack, the Juicy Couture luggage that my niece was trying to pass off as a purse, and Nana’s oustretched legs, I found myself thinking… “Are we there yet?”

Our landing at Marsh Harbor was our most memorable yet. Of course it would be when we had 2 youngsters, 2 dogs, and Nana. The bad flights never happen when we are alone...only when we have an audience.

It was storming. We heard the commercial traffic turning back to Nassau and we did the same. Just then, a small plane came on the radio and announced he had just landed at Marsh. We did a 180 and headed back in. We were only 10 minutes away.

With about 1 minute to go….the sky collapsed and the gates of hell opened, and I was pretty sure the Apocalypse was upon us. The sky was black, buckets of rain poured on us, thunder and lightning were crashing around us, and I could feel the wind pushing us back and forth.

I looked down at the wreckage of the small plane that lies in the water just before the Marsh Harbor runway and I began to pray. I’ve made a lot of deals with God just before hitting those runways.

The second we touched down, a thunder clap sounded that was so loud, the dogs jumped, I held my breath, the niece’s eyes were like saucers, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if Nana had wet her pants.

After sitting on the runway for about 15 minutes because it was raining too hard to get out, we made an escape with an airport worker who came out with a giant umbrella. The airport power was out, and it was steamy and hot inside….but we had made it.

We made the 1:30 p.m. ferry to Guana Cay with about 2 minutes to spare. By 2:00 we were stepping off onto the dock, the rain had stopped, and I breathed a sigh of relief because I didn’t have to hear, “Are we there yet?” one more time.

We headed to the house to get unpacked and take a breather until Matt’s sister and her husband arrived.

Survival Tip #2: Don’t get stressed out when you have to give the mother-in-law the giant King bedroom with the en suite bath because she has limited mobility. That tiny room at the top of the stairs with the very small bed will allow you and your spouse to spend some special quality time together, provided that one of you doesn’t kill the other one first. I find that nighttime beverage of warm milk, Nyquil, and Bourbon helps.

Matt and I got our things and carried them up to our small bedroom, with our small bed, and our small bathroom. I’m pretty sure I let an involuntary whimper escape as we passed by the palatial master bedroom downstairs where Nana Jo was putting her things away.

“Couldn’t you carry her up and down the stairs?” I whispered as Matt gave me THAT LOOK. If you have a spouse...you know the look I'm talking about.

We busied ourselves with settling in, getting groceries, and getting cleaned up while we waited for the others to arrive. Due to a flight delay, they didn’t get there until the last ferry of the day. I was relieved when they finally arrived. Not because I was worried, but because, after we got to Guana, “Are we there yet” got replaced by, “When do Mom and Dad get here?” and I was pretty sure that if I heard it one more time, someone was getting hog tied and put in the broom closet.

We were tired. We were grumpy. We were hungry. It was time to do something to jump start this vacation. We headed to Grabbers for sunset.

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Survival Tip #3: Just because it’s legal for an 18-year old to drink alcohol in the Bahamas, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. It’s a good way to end up with your feet vomited on. Let’s just leave it at that.

T.G.I.F.

It was Friday and the storms had moved out, leaving us with amazing weather. I learned early that there was no such thing as a “quiet morning” when you have a teenager and a 9 year-old boy in the house. First thing every morning, the T.V. was on. Matt and I might turn the T.V. on once a week, so the constant blare of commercials, cartoons, and MTV videos was more than I could take before a cup of coffee.

Oh. My. God.

I really have turned into my mother.

Coffee in hand, we escaped to the beach for a little peace and quiet wherever we could find it.

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Remember the coconut toting wonder dog from our previous trip to Guana? We found him again.

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Survival Tip #4: Be sure to bring the essentials: Sunscreen, bug spray, beach towels, taser, Barbiturates.

Not knowing how everyone would do on the boat, we thought it best to stick close on our first day. We headed to Spoil Bank Cay (Shell Island) and North Guana.

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About halfway there, we ran up on the “giant starfish party.” The nephew wanted to see a starfish, but no amount of bribery with Oreos was getting him to jump off that boat in the open water, so Matt dove in and brought a couple up for him to gently look at before returning them to the sea.

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Shell Island was beautiful as always….plenty of insanely gorgeous water, white sand, and sea creatures.

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And of course, shells.

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When they’d had enough, we jumped back in the boat to head to the beach at North Guana.

As we neared the north beach, we noticed the water was a deeper, darker aqua than we’d ever seen it before. It is always beautiful, but that day, it was exceptionally beautiful.

There was some misty fog and clouds hanging over the water, and we attributed the unusual color to that…although Matt and I kept joking that Baker’s Bay must have started dyeing the water for their residents.

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While on the beach, we noticed a Baker’s Bay security vehicle approach. This has never happened to us before. The gentleman got out of his vehicle and came down to where we were on the beach and said, “Do you know that this is a private development?”

To which my husband, very politely, responded, “Yes, and we also know that all the beaches are public up to the line of vegetation.”

The guy stammered and finally said, “Uh….you’re right….just….um…don’t walk up past the trees.”

“We didn’t plan to,” Matt said as we all kept staring at him.

He left.

It’s unfortunate for folks that don’t know the rules because I guarantee that Baker’s Bay is successful at scaring a lot of folks into leaving. I enjoyed that beach before Baker’s Bay was there and I will continue to enjoy it now that they are there.

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The Conch Shack at Baker’s Bay was closed for a private event, and the nephew had replaced “Are we there yet?” and “When do Mom and Dad get here?” with “When can we go to Nippers and see the pool?”

I learned quickly that children become easily fixated and will repeat a question until they get what they want or you stick an ice pick in your ears, whichever comes first.

Survival Tip #5: Learn some carnival skills, like eating fire, hula hooping, or magic tricks; that way, when the kids get bored and you don’t know what to do, you can whip out a few pineapples and juggle. It eliminates those awkward moments for us non-parents and keeps the kid entertained. If that doesn’t work, get out those Barbiturates.

We needed lunch and the boy needed a pool, so off to Nippers we went.

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It was a gorgeous day for a frozen Nipper and a fried mahi sandwich. And a swim in the pool with the coconut toting wonder dog. We spent the afternoon alternating between beach and pool. There are worse ways to spend a day.

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The previous night, before becoming overimbibed and falling off her barstool, the niece had met a boy who invited her to go paddle boarding at Grabbers. We all decided to do dinner at Grabbers because 1) the sunsets are amazing, 2) we like the food, and 3) after last night's spectacle, she wasn't getting out of our sight...if she had a date, we ALL had a date.

Survival Tip #6: Watch the teenagers like a hawk. Be wary. Be suspicious. Be that relative you hated when you were 18. Don’t let them have a moment alone. Follow them to the bathroom. If you can get away with it, hide a GPS in their pocket or put one of those toddler leashes on them.

The sunset that night was off the charts beautiful. The princess did her paddle board thing. Matt took the boy out for a kayak run. Everyone found a hammock and rocked back and forth as the sky went from golden to fiery orange to cool blue.

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That’s when the UFO came.

Everyone started running out and pointed at the sky. People were taking photos. There were a couple of massive flashes and a streak of light. A mysterious flying object flew through the sky, trailing streams of light.

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Of course it was a space ship.

Yesterday was the Apocalypse, so today we were being invaded by aliens who wanted to wear our faces.

At least that’s what we told the 9 year-old.

That was so much more fun than telling him it was a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral.

Survival Tip #7: To passively-aggressively repay your mother-in-law for scoring the big bedroom, leave her at the bar with a drunk stranger. She might make friends. Or get $20. Or both.

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We realized we had left Nana Jo unattended for too long and returned to find that she was making friends. Whether she wanted to or not.

We’d had a big night: paddle boards, kayaks, hammocks and rockets. It was time for some dinner.

Vowing to attempt to eat something other than french fries and mac & cheese on this visit, I went bold and ordered the sesame crusted ahi tuna. Yes, at Grabbers.

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I know. That was a risky move. It was like ordering a filet mignon cooked rare at McDonald’s. But to their credit, Grabbers has been upping their game in the past year or so. They had a newly built deck, they’ve added lots of games, watersports, and hammocks, they have expanded the dining area, and they have added some very good food to the evening menu.

The tuna was delicious. And the night was perfect.

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Hoping for Hopetown.

This trip hadn’t killed me yet. That was evidenced by the blaring of MTV videos as I opened my eyes on Saturday morning.

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It was our middle day and it was going to be our longest day. We had decided to make the trip to Hopetown for strolling and shopping, hop over to Lubbers Quarters for lunch (I was denied that Island Burger on my previous trip and I still had to have one!), wrap the afternoon up with the afternoon boat party at Tahiti Beach, and then join friends for dinner back in Hopetown before heading back to Guana late that night.

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Survival Tip #8: Do not overschedule your trip. This can lead to excessive whining and grumbling. Do not underschedule your trip. This can lead to excessive whining and grumbling. On second thought, forget scheduling and find those Barbituarates.

It was an ambitious day to say the least, but after discovering that time indoors meant listening to music videos and iPad games, I decided to use the tactic my parents always used with me and my brothers: keep them busy until they collapsed from exhaustion or cried themselves to sleep.

It was a beautiful boat ride over to Elbow Cay, the water putting on a spectacular show of color along the way.

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Before we knew it, that happy red & white striped lighthouse was welcoming us into the harbor.

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It only takes a few minutes to walk from the public dock to the Hopetown Harbor Lodge, but I am pretty sure my nephew asked “How much farther” at least three times and we had to stop twice so the mother-in-law could rest.

God love a duck.

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I had to cultivate the patience of Job. Sure, his livestock was stolen, his servants were killed, he lost his camels, a house fell on his family, and he was covered in boils and sores....but I bet he never went on vacation with his in-laws.

After 17 hours, 32 minutes, and 56 ½ seconds, we made it to the Reef Bar where a much needed adult beverage was in order.

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The views were stellar, as always. We threw the kid in the pool and grabbed some drinks. Even Nana Jo got in on the action.

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Afterwards, we took some time to let everyone see Hopetown.

At their own pace.

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Then it was off to Lubbers Quarters. I had discovered Lubbers Landing on our last visit and instantly fell in love with it. The laid back vibe of the place really appealed to me. It was just after a hurricane, however, and the tiny resort had lost its freezer and all of its food so we weren’t able to eat lunch. I was determined to make it for lunch this time.

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We arrived at the breezy dock and headed down the walkway to the bar and grill.

When we arrived, we realized they are closed on Saturdays.

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We had two hungry kids, so heading back to Hopetown was not an option. We also had an old lady that could only walk about 1 foot per minute, so walking next door to Cracker P’s would have taken us about 3 days.

That’s when the young lady behind the bar told us that she’d cook Island Burgers and make us drinks if we didn’t mind waiting. She was only there to clean up after a wedding and the kitchen/bar were not officially open. She was alone but she’d do what she could if we could be patient.

What luck!! In the past 2 days, patient had become my middle name.

Matt and I were IN. We put ourselves down for 2 Island Burgers.

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Survivial Tip #9: If you need some “me time,” just threaten the kids with a burger that does not come in a Styrofoam box, has no toys attached, and contains absolutely no beef. If that doesn’t work, you can always try the Taser, but that only gets you about 30 seconds of quiet time, compared to a tuna burger which can buy you up to an hour.

As soon as the kids heard the Island Burgers were made with ground tuna….they started to hyperventilate. I’m pretty sure one of them actually started to get hives at the thought of eating something that didn’t come out of a microwave or a plastic sealed package, so we immediately sent the family next door to Craker P’s.

And that, my friends, is how that lovely girl at Lubbers Landing bought my husband and I an hour of family-free bliss on a Saturday afternoon. That was worth a $10,000 tip.

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She went way above and beyond the call of duty. Not only did she jump behind the bar and make everyone a rum punch, when she saw how disappointed I was that she had no fresh lime juice for a saltwater margarita…she squeeze me up a lime so I could have one. Outstanding.

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The wait was short and within minutes, a thick, juicy island burger was in front of me. Ground tuna with spices, fresh veggies, creamy hot sauce….it was the perfect beach burger. The hand cut seasoned fries just made it even better.

Ah-mazing.

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With happy bellies, we spent the afternoon lounging at Tahiti Beach. It was a perfect time to relax and do nothing.

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What do kids do at the beach? Obviously, if you are an 18 year old girl, you put in your headphones and imagine you are alone somewhere exotic where parents do not exist. If you are a 9 year old boy, you run around pretending every object is a football, a bomb, or a missile.

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We were meeting friends for dinner at the Hopetown Hideaways Resort. Located on the lighthouse side of the harbor, it was somewhere we had never been. As we strolled up and saw the beautiful grounds, the gorgeous pool, and the impressive bar and restaurant, we decided quickly that we liked it!

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It was a great evening with family. The food was good, everyone was having a great time. Even the princess put the iPhone away and joined the family.

It was one of those wonderful evenings where you couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. I looked at Matt and said, “We should do this again next year.”

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Survival Tip #10: Stop and appreciate the peaceful moments when everyone is smiling, laughing, generally having a good time, and you are not looking for a bottle of Scotch. Savor the moment internally, but whatever you do, don’t be compelled to turn to your spouse and say, “This is great. We should do it again next year.”

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Sunday is Funday.

Survival Tip #11: Get used to the concept of NO PRIVACY. For the childless couple, a family vacation is a challenge. It means you will not be alone ever, you can’t drink out of the OJ carton and actually have to use a glass, you can’t walk downstairs in your underwear, and you will end up constipated because you are fearful that the second you poop in the bathroom, that 9 year-old boy is going to run in and say, “YUCK! What’s that smell?”

We made an early morning escape to the beach where we could enjoy a few moments of silence before launching into the madness of the day.

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Back at the house, I played a game I like to play on vacation called, “Let’s make up a recipe out of villa pantry leftovers.”

I like to see what’s been left behind by previous guests and (after checking the expiration date….lesson learned….) then try to cook something using what I find. I have made pineapple pancakes. I have made peach cobbler. I have made pasta with tomato and mystery ingredient sauce (if I told them what was in it, they wouldn’t eat it).

This time it was “Vicki’s Leftover Bisquick and Canned Apples Coffee Cake.”

Recipe:
However much baking mix is left in the box
Some oil...whatever you've got
A few squirts of mayo (don't knock it)
A handful of sugar
Top with a can of apple and cranberry pie filling
Sprinkle a layer of oats, butter, and brown sugar on top
Bake until it looks done

I may not be winning any contests with it….but it was pretty good.

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The family had never experienced a Pig Roast Sunday at Nippers, so we did the only thing we could do….we loaded them up and took them up that long sandy hill toward all things rainbow colored and fun and hoped that no one would end up vomiting on a lounge chair (yes, this really happened), diving head first into the 4 foot deep pool and hitting their head on the bottom (yes, this really happened….), or going home with a black eye (yes, this really happened).

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There was food, music, and fun. No one got hurt. No one got in a fight. No one got sick.

Only one person cried.

That’s a good day at Nippers!

We ended the day with pizza at Grabbers, which has become something of a tradition at the end of Sunday for us on Guana.

It’s a good way to wind down, enjoy the sunset, and thank God that all of your body parts are still intact.

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And…..We’re Out.

It had been a brief trip, but that’s the best kind with family. It’s a good idea to go home while you all still like each other.

Survival Tip #12: Don’t make the trip too long. Know the family’s limits. A full week might be a bit much. Shoot for something less ambitious, like 4 hours.

It was time for one last sunrise...

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...one last sandy nose...

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...and one last meal at Curly Tails...

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And then it was done.

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It was a good time. Getting to see the people you love enjoy a place you love is rewarding and spending time with family is something you can never place a price tag on.

Maybe we should do it again next year. (Please refer to Survival Tip # 10)

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Posted by vicki_h 09:21 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beach island tropical bahamas abaco elbow_cay guana_cay Comments (5)

It's better in the Bahamas...but it's gooder in Guana.

It may be better in the Bahamas, but it’s gooder in Guana.

We just can’t seem to quit Guana Cay. We all want to find paradise don’t we?

I have found my paradise. It is a perfect streak of white and green amidst the bluest of sea. It’s got sand in all the right places, a beach bar exactly when and where I need it, and it’s alluringly empty. It’s balmy and sun glazed, soft to the touch and rich with impossible color and flavor.

Let’s go to Guana, why don’t we?

Shuffle through the sand with me and for a moment, forget your office chair and scoop up a handful of sea shells, feel the peace, and smell the sunshine above the hectic buzzing of your day.

DAY 1: HURRY UP AND GET THERE.

We arrived before 10:00 a.m. and in no time had our toes buried in that soft Guana sand.

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The flight to Marsh Harbor takes about 4.5 hours from where we live. It’s a quick and easy trip and when I see that water appear, my heart does a little backflip.

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We had 4 newbies with us this time – my aunt and uncle and friends of ours from Canada that flew down to join us. We had a great little house, Seaside, that sat right on the water with a nice dock and a huge boat. We were also on the island for a full week this time….something we rarely do. AND we were finally here during lobster season, something we usually miss.

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We were greeted at Grabbers, a great beachside bar and grill, by Sunny, the coconut toting wonder dog.

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Nothing starts a vacation better than throwing a slobber coated coconut to a sand covered dog, while perusing a menu filled with fried things.

One of the things I love about the Bahamas is that they see nothing wrong with frying lobster. The only thing that makes lobster better is frying it. Well…..or maybe putting some bacon on it.

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One lobster in da bag and 2 frozen grabbers later, we spent the afternoon doing nothing more exciting than unpacking our bags, watching the hermit crabs crawl across the deck, and grabbing some lobster bites at Grabbers for dinner.

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DAY 2: WHEN THEY KICK YOU OUT OF NIPPERS, MAN YOU’RE REALLY DRUNK.

There is no sight more beautiful than the beach on Guana on your first morning on the island.

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It was Sunday. Anyone who has read my blog before knows what Sunday is on Guana Cay.

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Sunday is Party Day at Nippers. There are frozen drinks, loud music, bad dancing, and an island buffet filled with BBQ pork and Bahamian mac n’ cheese.

As we made our way toward that rainbow fence leading to all things fun and hilarious, I only hoped it didn’t end like the last trip where I found myself at day’s end sitting in a too warm swimming pool filled with what appeared to be puke and floaties of cole slaw, too nippered to even think about moving, but instead, just shooing the cole slaw away with one limp hand, wondering who puked in the pool, and hoping it wasn't me.

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The key to the frozen Nipper is to count. Keep up with how many you have had. Once you lose count, well, it’s pretty much over for you.

We enjoyed the beautiful day, the sparkling pool (which appeared to be puke and cole slaw free this time), the fabulous food…and then somewhere in the afternoon….. I lost count.

Darn it.

Those frozen Nippers get me every time.

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It was a fun day, no one got hurt, no one got thrown out, and we all managed to make it back home with all of our limbs and teeth intact.

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I think I slept through dinner.

We’ll call that a good day.

DAY 3: FUN WITH BOATS 101.

This was our day to get familiar with the 26’ Hydrasport that we were going to be using for the rest of the trip. This was bigger than the boats we were used to and it had a few mechanical glitches that we needed to get figured out before there was going to be any smooth sailing.

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For that reason, we thought sticking close to home was a prudent choice.

We decided not to go any farther than Man-O-War cay.

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We ran into our first problem when we entered on the shallow side, like we are used to doing in our smaller boats. We noticed a man on the shore waving at us.

“These people sure are friendly,” we thought as we all smiled and waved back.

In reality, he wasn’t giving us a “Hey, how you doing?” wave, he was giving us his best “What the hell are you doing????? Get on the other side you idiots, before you run aground!” wave.

We figured that out when we found ourselves on the sandbar.

Can you believe that nice man jumped in his little boat and towed us back off?

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I got the impression he’d done this before.

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The boat was on empty and there was no gas on Guana, so we headed to the marina to fill up. After getting gas, the boat wouldn’t start.

Wouldn’t even turn over.

Well, this was just ducky.

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Forty-five minutes of cleaning battery connections, checking wires, and finally buying a brand new $235 marine battery later, we were in business!

We headed into the Dock and Dine on Man-O-War for what might, quite literally, be the best burger in the universe. It was good enough to make us forget all about that $235 battery.

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As we walked the streets of the quite little island, we realized it actually has several very nice shops.

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We found some hand printed fabric in one and of course, we had to visit the Albury Sail Shop where the ladies still turn out canvas bags sewn on old fashioned sewing machines.

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Despite it’s ….challenges….the boat was a super nice boat and was equipped with a GPS marked with all the local lobster houses. The boat’s owner had shown us how to find them.

What is a lobster house, you ask? Bahamians build habitats to attract lobsters. There are lots of them, but you’ll likely pass right over them without ever noticing them if you don’t know where they are. A lobster house might be a car hood, a piece of corrugated roof tin, or a storm shutter set in place and attached to a cinder block.

Essentially an artificial miniature reef, these types of structures are illegal in the U.S. but in the Bahamas, they are part of the regular program. Lobster season runs from August 1 through March 31 and you are allowed to have up to 10 lobsters on one boat.

Don’t dare have live caught lobsters and dive gear on the same boat, though. It’s not legal to catch lobsters using dive gear in the Bahamas. Only free diving is allowed.

We were about to go buggin’ in the Bahamas.

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Sooooo.........Our first lobstering experience was not exactly a success. It was getting too dark, the water was too rough, and we had no idea what exactly we were looking for. We must have gone back and forth along the shore for an hour without seeing the first lobster house.

We finally got frustrated, called it a day, and went to Grabbers for a lobster dinner.

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Bon Appetit!

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DAY 4: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.

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Still not 100% sure how confident we were that we’d gotten all of the boat’s issues worked out, we still didn’t want to venture too far. We thought we’d just head to the north end of Guana Cay and visit Spoil Bank Cay, aka Shell Island.

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Because Shell Island is located very close to Baker’s Bay…we decided to wander in.

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There are many who were not supportive of the Baker’s Bay development or of what it did to Guana Cay and the potential lasting effects of that development on the reef. This is not a vote for or against Baker’s Bay and all that it stands for. We just decided to have lunch there.

And dang it, we enjoyed it.

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Baker’s Bay is a beautiful and exclusive development that land locked the most beautiful beaches on Guana Cay. You can still visit them, you just have to do so by boat. We also found that, despite its exclusivity, Baker’s Bay was very welcoming when we pulled up to their docks for lunch.

They have a very nice Market Restaurant, but it was a beautiful and breezy day, so we opted to eat down by the water at the Conch Shack. They made us some delicious rum punches and I had a lobster salad sandwich. Prices are higher than most places around Guana (about $15 for lunch), but we decided it was a nice option when visiting north Guana.

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After lunch, we headed toward Shell Island.

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Shell Island is a small uninhabited cay just off the shore of Guana. Formed as the result of undersea dredging to make a cruise ship channel, it now provides an excellent place to find an absurd number of shells. It’s a beautiful spot and you can literally spend hours here, just prowling through piles of shells or relaxing in the clear water just off the beach.

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I have been to Shell Island many, many times, but have never done anything more than prowl the beach near the boat. I decided to walk all the way around. This would, in fact, make me feel like a superhero or triathlon caliber athlete. Yes, I walked around an entire island.

I am going to pretend that you are impressed.

The far side was eerie. What must be the product of several hurricanes, it’s just a pile of sunbleached, leafless trees, piled in a twisted heap along the shore. I had to walk out into the water just a bit to get around, and as I stepped on what I thought was some rock, my foot sunk deeply into squishy clay.

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Gross!!!!

It made a huge sucking sound as I pulled my foot out and literally danced the remaining 40 feet across the clay lined shore, screaming, “Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! Yuck!” the whole way.

I made my way back around to the boat and no one was there. Apparently, they had all followed me around and were now, no doubt, knee deep in that squishy clay.

Is it wrong that I thought that was funny?

As the others came around the bend, I could see that Syd had something big in her hand. I squinted and peered. What was that? Did she find a big conch shell? A coconut?

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She walked up to me with a 6 lb. mass of clay.

That she wanted us to rub all over our bodies.

Right that moment.

While Sydney was thinking, “Oh my goodness, it’s like a free spa treatment. Do you know how much a sea mud treatment costs? It will leave our skin all smooth and amazing…” I was thinking, “What the hell is in that? What if there are microscopic parasites? How do we even know what that shit is? It could contain some 30 year old toxic cruise ship waste. What if we break out all over? I don't want to end up on one of those Discovery Channel shows where they find thousands of spiders inside someone's elbow.”

But Syd had carried that giant ball of clay for 30 minutes, so I did what any good friend would do….I grabbed a handful and smeared it fearlessly ….all….over….my….body.

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Now, I realize that this probably doesn’t sound very smart, but I should point out that no one has accused me of being very smart.

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Friends at home: We are not trained professionals. These photos were taken of idiots who unwittingly smeared a mysterious clay-like substance all over their bodies without thought of the consequences. We do not recommend trying this at home.

It actually felt great. This was awesome. What a fantastic idea! It was silky soft and felt good on my skin. It didn’t have any smell and was cool and luxurious. I was just starting to think this was an AMAZING idea….when I started to itch. All over my body. I looked at Sydney and Susan.

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“Are you guys itching?” I asked.

“OH MY GOD, YES!” they screamed as we all plunged into the water and started scrubbing ourselves furiously with sand.

The good news is that we emerged with super soft skin and no one broke out. The bad news is that we’ll never really know what the hell we rubbed all over our bodies.

Ignorance is bliss, I always say.

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We decided to eat in that night and grilled steaks, baked potatoes, and tossed a salad. I found some apple crisp mix and canned apples leftover in the pantry and whipped us up a dessert.

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The sky put on quite a dinner show as we ate.

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DAY 5: THERE IS ALWAYS HOPETOWN.

I did not wake up with blisters and welts on my skins. No hives. No rash.

Praise the lord. We had survived the great beach mud adventure. Now it was time to decide what to do for the day.

A trip to Elbow Cay is a must on every trip to Guana. Not only is Hopetown a great destination all in its own right, but you can combine the trip with a stop at Lubbers Quarters and a visit to Tahiti Beach. It simply makes for a phenomenal day.

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We did Hopetown and all that it entails: a visit to Vernon’s, a cruise through all the shops, and a final stop at Hopetown Harbor Lodge’s Reef Bar.

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There aren’t many bars in the world with a view like this one.

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I wanted to eat lunch somewhere new, and we knew that Lubbers Landing over on Lubbers Quarters was open. We were headed to Tahiti Beach anyway, so it seemed like a great idea.

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It was a great idea…..except that they had no refrigerator since the hurricane and couldn’t make us anything but drinks.

Never mind the lack of food….this place was AMAZING. I have no idea how I have missed it up until now. If you are a regular visitor to Abaco and you have not been to Lubbers Landing yet, do yourself a favor.

Go.

Go now.

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It had the most perfect décor ….open and airy, with a chic, tropical bohemian vibe. Classy, but earthy. I am not sure how they pulled it off, but it was just right.

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We grabbed bags of chips off the boat and sampled their saltwater margarita. If everything else is as good as that margarita, I can’t wait to try this place again.

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They also had a pole. While your first thought might be, “Drunk girls dancing,” let me assure you, it’s not that kind of place. Okay, at least the day we were there.

The pole is a unique twist on the hook and ring game. You throw the ring around the pole and as it unwinds, it may or may not ring the hook, depending on how good you are. If you are good enough, you get a free shot of Patron.

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We were not good enough, but they did let me parade around in this dazzling hardhat, one of several that are required of spectators.

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Any beach bar with a fabulous margarita and a hard hat that I can wear is tops in my book.

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We ate enough chips to put off lunch for a while longer, so we motored on over to Tahiti Beach.

It was right at low tide and the sandbars were doing that thing they do so well.

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Everyone wandered around looking for sand dollars and sea biscuits, while I embarked on a margarita-fueled, one-woman endeavor to save every beached starfish that was stuck on the sandbar that day.

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They probably all died anyway, but Greenpeace would have been proud. I think I’ll tell them about it the next time I see them downtown. Maybe they’ll make me an honorary member and give me one of those cool jackets or something.

All that starfish saving made me hungry, so we stopped back in Hopetown to have a late lunch at Captain Jacks.

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This coconut fried lobster with a side of macaroni and cheese might have been my favorite meal of the trip.

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We spent the evening at the house, as Syd made her legendary taco salad. I had learned to love this dish on our first sailing trip with Sydney and her husband, Keith, in the BVI. Nothing tastes better than this taco salad after a day in the sun.

Well, except maybe bacon.

Or lobster with bacon on it.

Fried.

With a side of macaroni and cheese.

I’m going to stop now.

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DAY 6: LOOKING FOR TREASURE.

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It had been a windy week, which doesn’t make for the greatest boating, and we’d been waiting for a semi-calm day so that we could try to boat over to Treasure Cay.

Windy weather is tough when you want to go boating. In the Abacos, it can be brutal. With sea swells that turn a pleasant boating experience into an exercise in survival, I feel like calling up Mother Nature and telling her to fire Wind. Who gives a crap about Jack Frost or Father Time? Dammit, give a promotion to Sunshine or Beach Weather.

By Thursday, with only 2 days left, we figured out that we weren’t going to get a wind free day. She was going to blow and we were going to like it or go cry in our cocktail, it was our choice.

We chose to like it.

The passage from Guana to Treasure is a bit tricky, because it gets very shallow. The sea was choppy and we were in a much larger boat then we were used to, but we had a good GPS, our handy Dodge Guide, and an excellent description of the passage provided by Dr. Ralph (http://www.drralph.net/DontRockPassage.html) so we felt good to go.

The passage was no problem and the views of the water were spectacular.

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The problem came when we got there.

The water was just too rough. We couldn’t anchor the boat properly and there was no way to get ashore without getting totally soaked. I know because I tried. And I got totally soaked.

After the 5th wave struck me as I tried, unsuccessfully, to climb the ladder to get back on the boat, and I began to envision something like the scene in A Perfect Storm where the boat capsizes under a wall of watery doom, I looked at Matt and screamed, “Abort mission! Abort mission! Operation Get Ashore is not a go. I repeat – NOT A GO.”

We jumped back on the boat and motored around to the Treasure Cay marina, which is what we should have done in the first place. It’s literally across the street from the Coco Beach bar, so we were able to leave the boat tied to the dock and walk across.

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It was a beautiful day at Treasure Cay and we celebrated it with a round of their sky high frozen drinks.

These might be the weakest drinks in all of Abaco, but they are also the most delicious.

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Coco Beach bar will let you use their beach chairs and umbrellas if you are eating and drinking with them. I like this because it’s one of the only places on our vacations to Abaco where I can lay in a beach chair like a civilized human and not end up with a bucket full of sand up my wahoo by the end of the day.

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We left early enough that the boys could try their hand at lobster fishing again while there was still some good light. Now that we had figured out the GPS “direct to” function, it was easy. Find a lobster house on the GPS, tell it “direct to,” and go.

When we spotted our first lobster house, you’d have thought we just saw the real Santa Claus or found a suitcase full of money.

“There!” Matt shouted as he looked at the underwater camera screen, which gave us a perfect view of what was directly underneath the boat. Immediately, the boat was in neutral and the guys were grabbing masks and fins and plunging into the water.

Bill surfaced with a big grin. Thumbs up. They found the lobster house.

Matt grabbed the spear, the gloves and the lobster bag and down they went.

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We sat nervously…waiting….seeing nothing but bubbles come to the surface.

That’s when they both popped up with lobsters in hand! Yee-Haw!!!!! We had bugs!

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Once they got the hang of it, it got easier. They kept going until we had 6 lobsters, one per person. Or three for me and three for everyone else to split. Whatever everyone felt was fair.

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Lobster. It’s what’s for dinner.

I told the guys that if they would boil them, I’d grill them after. I felt bad enough stealing the little fellas from their homes while they watched Spongebob with their families, there was no way I was shoving them in that pot of boiling water.

Yes, I understand the obvious irony of my starfish saving frenzy the day before in light of my new found penchant for crustacean murder. I won’t try to explain that it’s totally different when it’s lobster, because that will make me sound like the hypocrite that I am. And Greenpeace might take away my cool new jacket.

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While the guys did lobster-killing duty, the girls fixed pasta and salad. It was a feast fit for a king.

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The sun set on another perfect Guana Day.

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DAY 7: FINALLY, MY PERFECT BEACH DAY.

What’s better than eating six fresh lobsters that you caught yourself for dinner?

Why, eating a lobster and bacon sandwich for breakfast.

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I told you the only thing better than lobster was lobster with bacon.

It was our last day and I had not yet been to my favorite place on Guana Cay…the north end beaches.

Yes, those coveted beaches that have been so needlessly cut off from us riff-raff by Bakers Bay. But I had a boat, and that beach was going to be mine.

We usually motor all the way around the northern tip, to the ocean side, before pulling up to the shore. There is a beautiful and deserted slice of perfect beach there that has become one of my favorite places in the world.

However, Mother Nature had not yet fired Wind. He was still doing his best to huff and puff and blow my house down, so the ocean side didn’t seem like such a good idea.

That’s when we saw this stretch of perfection.

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It had my name written all over it.

You know the only thing better than a beautiful deserted beach? A jar of homemade Tennessee mango moonshine to go with it.

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In a word….it was PERFECTION.

It was my perfect beach moment.

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It was a beautiful day, so we decided to return to nearby Shell Island, this time for shells, not mud.

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As we motored over, we were joined by a pretty large pod of dolphins. We counted about 6 of them. I am not an action photographer. I am painfully slow and I am not good at shooting moving subjects. Like dolphins. I usually end up with a photo that has some obscure black blob in it that I have to insist is a real live dolphin, feeling like the guy that took that grainy shot of the Loch Ness Monster or that blurry Big Foot photo.

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No, really. That’s a really live dolphin. Really. It is.

We stayed on the boat until the sun was low in the sky. We were loath to go in because it was our last day. It’s hard to let go of all of that sunshine and impossible beauty and head back home.

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We ended the day with a sunset at Grabbers and more fried lobster goodness at Nippers.

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Goodbye Sunshine. Goodbye Beach Weather. Goodbye fried lobster and sea mud. I will miss you all.

Goodbye Wind. I won’t miss you. You suck, really, and your super nature powers should be removed...or at least severely limited.

Thanks for going to Guana with me. I’m sorry the moment is over, but I appreciate you sharing it with me.

Now go shake the sand off of your feet, dig the swimsuit out of your butt crack, step back into your office, and get back to work.

I’ll see you next time.

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Posted by vicki_h 11:33 Archived in Bahamas Tagged beach island tropical bahamas abaco guana_cay Comments (0)

In the bahamas, pigs don't fly...but they might swim.

Going Hog Wild on Staniel Cay

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It all started with an article in one of Matt’s pilot magazines. It caught my eye with a catchy title about “BEST DESTINATIONS FOR PRIVATE PILOTS” accompanied by photos of incredibly delicious turquoise water and tall palm trees. I started reading about miles of deserted beaches, water in more shades of blue than my eyes could register, restaurants overflowing with lobster……and then there was a photo of a swimming pig.

Yes. Porky Pig was paddling through the beautiful Caribbean waters.

Swimming pigs?

I thought this article was about the tropics, not the tropigs. I mean, was this the Bahamas or was this Boara Boara? No way, I thought. It had to be hogwash. This would give a whole new meaning to “salt pork.” Seriously, this had to be a pigment of someone’s imagination. But what if it was true? Could there really be beach Babes? What if there really were fabulous swimming island pigs? I’d be as happy as a pig in mud. I’d squeal with delight. I’d give my left hoof to see them. Just imagine the pigtures I could take!

I decided to jump in, whole hog.

“We’re going to see the swimming pigs for my birthday,” I announced.

And that is how we ended up on Staniel Cay.

Day One:

Any pilot who knows the Bahamas will tell you the most spectacular flight in the islands is the one down the Exuma chain.

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Pronounced Ex-U-mas not EX-u-mas (which sounds like a nasty skin rash), the Exumas are a 120 mile long chain of 365 tiny islands in the Bahamas…each one enticing you to become a castaway. Strong currents between the shallow waters to the west and the deep Exuma sound to the east have molded the sea floor and created swirling channels of deep blue that twist and dance their way through shallow sand bars in every shade of turquoise imaginable. What you see from above are countless shades of blue, green, indigo, aqua, and turquoise waters as they drift over sand shallows and into narrow ocean cuts. The water is broken by vivid green islands fringed with endless white sand beaches and delicate coves speckled with white boats. The colors are striking and the appearance of the island chain from the air is like a beautiful necklace draped delicately across the ocean floor.

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Some of these tiny islands are inhabited, but most are not. For those that are inhabited, it is a term applied very loosely. It typically refers to populations in the double digits, a marina, one restaurant, and less than a handful of cottages for visitors. The Exumas are truly a place to get away from it all.

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Midway through the Exuma island chain is Staniel Cay. Staniel Cay is a 2.5 mile islet with a population that hovers around 80 on a good day. With no hotels, a single resort that has only a dozen cottages, and only 2 small airlines that fly puddle jumpers in from Nassau….this isn’t an easy destination to get to unless you have a boat or your own plane. That’s why visitors are few, making it an incredibly private paradise.

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If you do have a plane, you are in luck. Staniel Cay boasts one of the few airstrips in the Exumas.

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You will notice I used the word “airstrip” and did not use the word “airport.” That’s because all you will find on this tiny speck of land is a relatively short 3,000 foot runway with a severe crosswind that probably should have been repaved about 15 years ago. There are no tie downs and parking is just off a gravel area beside the airstrip that you have to hand pull your plane into once you have landed. You have to watch for errant roosters as you touch down and you can’t help but wonder how many hermit crabs you are crushing beneath your wheels. There are no facilities and the closest thing to a weather station is the tattered and sun faded wind sock that hangs about halfway down the runway.

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Welcome to Staniel Cay.

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As we stood on the cracked and faded airstrip surrounded on 3 sides by water, I spotted the sign I was looking for: 3Ns Vacations. Nikki Ferguson was my “go to gal” for everything we needed for our visit to Staniel Cay. With a happy pink building next to the airstrip, she can provide any service that you need for your stay. She had left us a golf cart with the keys inside, left a boat tied up to the dock below our cottage, provisioned our house with groceries before our arrival, and even had someone bake and deliver a birthday cake. I already loved Nikki and I had never met her.

All we had to do was land, load up our cart and find the Beach Shack.

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The most common lodging for visitors to Staniel Cay are the 12 colorful cottages at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. The cottages are basic, but adequate, and are one of the few options for staying on the island. Hoping for something a little more roomy, I had checked my options on VRBO and found the Beach Shack.

The Beach Shack is a 2 bedroom rental cottage in a building that housed the former Happy People Marina. It was roomy, adorably furnished, loaded with amenities, and had the most outstanding view off the deck of the crazy shades of blue that are the distinguishing feature of the Exuma islands. What remains of the Happy People dock is still below the house, and while it has taken a beating from several storms, it was still good enough to tie up our boat and give us quick and easy access to the water.

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The best part was that the Beach Shack was pet friendly, and for the first time ever, we had decided to bring “the girls” to the Bahamas. Let me introduce you to my children:

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They were excited to be along for the ride.

By noon we were settled into the house, had everything unpacked, and were off in search of lunch.

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On an island so small that “town” consists of a post office, a blue store, and a pink store, the Staniel Cay Yacht Club is the social center. It houses the primary restaurant on the island and initiation to the island takes place at its polished wooden bar. Feeling lucky to be in such an amazing place, we toasted our good fortune with rum punches. Those were followed by conch bites and an amazing lobster salad.

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Because it was already afternoon, we made it a land based day and decided to tour the entire island after lunch. We set off with our map. You know you are about to fall off the edge of the world when the official maps of the place are homemade:

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We travelled all the roads and saw all of the sights.

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That took 20 minutes.

I told you this place was small.

We headed to Ho Tai Cay beach to cool off. This tiny beach is hidden down a dirt road that is obscured by brush on the far side of the air strip. After driving in circles around the airstrip, one of us finally spotted the path and we bumped and bounced our way to one of the most interesting beaches I have ever seen.

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The water was shallow and clear and a maze of rock walls stretched out into the sea. The water itself was a thin channel running up the center of the island. There was a scattering of colorfully painted wooden picnic tables and an old rope swing. It was the perfect place to cool off.

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Before heading back to the house, our friends wanted to grab a case of Kalik, the beer of the Bahamas. We went in seach of the famed Blue Store and Pink Store.

We found the Blue Store first. They did not sell beer. As I looked around the store, I realized that I had made a good decision by asking Nikki to buy our provisions elsewhere and pre-stock the house. The little store was somewhat bereft with an odd assortment of things that gave one the impression that they pretty much took what they could get and that if you did your shopping on the tail end of their supply run, you might not find much. This place was more suited for emergency supplies than for actual grocery buying.

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I had visions of what my shopping experience would have been like had I foolishly waited, thinking I could buy all of our provisions on Staniel once we arrived. I’d be like someone on one of those grocery shopping shows, throwing random items into my basket as I fought the person next to me for the last box of microwave popcorn. Hey! This dented can of beets looks good! It would go nicely with this cube steak with the freezer burn that I found in the back floor cooler. Oh, look….prunes and a gallon jug of Gallo…grab those!

I sighed with relief as we exited the Blue Store and I thought of my cabinets at the Beach Shack, filled with kettle chips and baguettes, fresh limes and an ice cold pineapple just waiting to be sliced. Whew.

However, we were in search of beer. There was still the Pink Store, so we walked the 30 feet to its front door. It was a lot like the Blue Store, only the offerings were different. Still odd and limited, but different. Here, one could get extra virgin olive oil, a handmade basket, and a frozen pizza.

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And beer.

With a case of Kalik in hand, we made our way back to the Beach Shack.

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On Staniel Cay, life moves slower than a hermit crab. That’s why you have to put your order in at the bar by 5:00 p.m. for the 7:00 p.m. dinner if you want to eat at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. We had only seen 2 other restaurants on the island and it wasn’t clear if they were very good or if they were even open, so we stuck with what we knew. We had perused the menu and put in our orders at lunch.

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We showed up at 7:00 p.m. and found that proper protocol was to grab a cocktail at the bar and then stroll around the docks watching them feed the nurse sharks until you hear the dinner bell. When the dinner bell rings, you are allowed inside and the meal you ordered at lunch is brought to you.

Eventually.

This sign just inside the door should have been a clue.

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The dinner bell was rung at 7:45. We were served our food at 9:45. I am still asking myself why, when they had known for over 6 hours exactly when I was coming and exactly what I was going to have, it took 2 hours to get my meal.

Life moves slower than a hermit crab stuck in peanut butter with a seagull on it’s back on Staniel Cay.

We simply drank more rum punch.

I was seriously contemplating trying to run back to the Blue Store to grab that dented can of beets when our food was finally served. By this time, I was delirious with hunger (and/or rum punch, it’s still unclear). We were served a soup of the day, salad of the day, our entrée choice (LOBSTER!!), and the dessert of the day. The food was good, even if it was slower than molasses running uphill in January and a bit overpriced.

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With only one restaurant to choose from, it made our options somewhat limited. We knew we’d probably be eating there again. As we carted back to the Beach Shack, I found myself daydreaming about that freezer burned steak…….

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Day Two:

Boat rentals aren’t as fancy on Staniel Cay as they are in Abaco, but Nikki had hooked us up with a very decent 17 foot Boston Whaler that would serve us well. It had a bimini top for shade and nice seats. We couldn’t complain. We piled in and headed into the wild blue yonder.

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I had flown 804 miles to see swimming pigs and I couldn’t wait. I slathered on the suntain oinkment and was ready for my big adventure (eventually the pig puns will stop…but I am not yet emotionally ready).

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The cays in the Exumas are more plentiful, much smaller, and much closer together than what we were accustomed to in the Abacos. This made for AMAZING boating. Every 5 minutes, you were at another island with something amazing to be seen. Deserted islands were plentiful, sandbars popped up out of nowhere at every turn, and beaches were scattered everywhere. While boating charts are advisable, they really only give you a big overview and give you the lay of the water, so to speak. The primary navigation in the Exumas is good old eyeball navigation. You literally “read the water,” recognizing that water color is indicative of depth and obstructions.

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“Blue, blue, go on through….green, green, it might get lean….brown, brown, you’ll run aground…..white, white, it ain’t alright!” Blue water is safe. Green water can be okay, but the lighter it is, the shallower it might be. Brown usually means rocks or coral. White means you are about to run up on the sandy bottom!

Our first stop was at Bitter Guana Cay. Bitter Guana is uninhabited. By humans, that is. What you will find here is an endangered species of marine iguana. The Exumas Iguana is one of the rarest in the Caribbean. They are herbivores and as soon as you land your boat on the beach, they come charging out to see what sort of munchies you might have.

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These guys were HUGE. They looked like prehistoric beasts and it was a little unnerving having them charging down the beach as fast as those little legs would go. To feed them, you should only feed them what is natural to them: lettuce, fruits, vegetables. Don’t go throwing a Dorito or half a Twinkie at them. You also need to place the food on a stick because if you throw it in the sand, they will ingest the sand.

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We were so enamored with the giant lizards that we almost failed to notice how gorgeous the beach was. These iguanas enjoy an absolutely beautiful slice of real estate. We decided to stay a while and lounged in the cool water.

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But eventually, the lure of the pigs was too strong. Sooooo-eeeeee! We had to go find those pigs!

Big Major Spot is just a few minutes by boat from Staniel Cay. Like Bitter Guana, its only inhabitants are of the 4 legged variety. Big Major is easy to find because it has one of the best anchorages for large boats and you can see the mega yachts piled up in the bay from a mile away.

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We cruised past the yachts and made our way toward Pig Beach. The pigs don’t even wait for you to get close before they start paddling out to your boat. It was HILARIOUS. All you could see were two big ears and a snout moving toward you.

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I have never seen anything so funny in my entire life. THESE PIGS WERE SWIMMING TO OUR BOAT!!!!

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For me, it was love at first sight.

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When they got to the boat, they simply circled it…begging for food like a bunch of big dogs. You could tell the swimming made them tired, because they would put their hooves on the side of the boat and rest if you let them. They never tried to climb in, I think they just didn’t want to keep pig-paddling.

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We discovered the kindest thing to do was to wade in where the pigs could just stand in the water and look at you with their big sad pig eyes….god forbid they actually have to exercise to get more food.

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The pig party was delightful. No one was charged by a pig. No pigs got unruly. No one got a pig bite. The pigs were demanding, but polite. They would stand at your feet with their big mouths open. If you told them “No Pig!” they would move away and find some other sucker who still had some snacks.

As a new boat arrived and the pigs started paddling over to it, we decided it was time to go. We’d had our fun and now it was time for lunch.

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We stopped at Sampson Cay and paid a visit to their Yacht Club store to stock up on some rum that we decided our lunch was missing. They have a very nice store with a very good selection of grocery items (as in…it was well stocked with good provisions that did not include dusty cans of hominy or bags of dried beans….).

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We grabbed a bottle of mango rum and boated off in search of the perfect pre-lunch cocktail spot.

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We saw a great looking beach on a deserted cay but then noticed there was already a little boat bobbing happily near the shore. In the Exumas, deserted beaches are so plentiful that local etiquette protects the privacy of whoever gets there first. It would be rude to crash someone else’s private beach party when you know that the next strand over will be all yours.

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We motored on and found a picture perfect crescent of beach with a long sandbar near Twin Cays. We anchored and looked around. Not a soul in sight….a long stretch of sugar sand….and the most perfect clear water I had ever seen.

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On every beach we visited while in the Exumas, I was the first to lay down my footprints. No one else had been and the beach was virgin and pristine. Every beach was OUR beach. We never had to share with anyone. It felt absolutely decadent.

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We turned on the tunes, poured the rum punch, and had our very own desert island moment.

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When we got hungry, we decided to head off toward Pipe Cay to find a lunch spot.

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As we motored slowly through water that looked like it couldn’t possibly be more than 3 feet deep, we saw a series of perfect little sandbars, just sitting as happy as you please in the middle of the water. It was perfect.

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We anchored between two sandbars, poured some more rum punch, and pulled out our lunch.

I hesitated for a minute....looking at the thick piece of bacon on my sandwich...."I'm sorry," I whispered to it, before taking a huge bite.

We enjoyed a couple of hours of post-lunch beach bliss before setting off for Compass Cay.

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Compass Cay is home to a bevy of nurse sharks that have been tamed by years of hand feeding. For an $8 per person docking fee, you can jump in and swim with the sharks.

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I loved the idea because, although nurse sharks are quite docile, they still look like predators. There is a definite thrill in being in the midst of them.

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There are also an abundance of other fish hanging quietly around the dock pilings – bonefish, snapper, grouper, and tiny sergeant majors were everywhere.

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I snorkeled with the sharks until my fingers pruned and I had a mask face.

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I pulled up onto their slightly submerged dock to take off my mask and couldn’t help but scream as something huge came up from the water and shoved me from behind. Before I knew it, I had a nurse shark IN MY LAP. As it lay there staring at me and I held my breath staring at it…another one shoved itself up beside me and then a third shoved up on my other side.

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I looked up at the dock helplessly and was told, “They like to be pet.”

Seriously?

Swimming with the sharks is one thing, but petting the sharks? You have got to be kidding me.

Sure enough, if you stroke their backs they lie still like giant wet puppies. Their skin looked like a mosaic of shiny little pebbles and it felt like wet sandpaper. It was amazing.

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The only rules were, “Don’t feed them in the water. Don’t stick your hand in their mouth. Don’t grab their tail.”

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Oh, darn. I was SO wanting to stick my hand in its mouth.

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We enjoyed the colorful Compass Cay marina, littered with all sorts of nautical nonsense painted happily on pieces of driftwood, before agreeing it was time to call it a day and head back.

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As the sun began to dip lower in the sky, we motored back to Staniel Cay to clean up for dinner.

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Despite the incredible 2 hour wait the night before, we still didn’t see anything else open, so we had dutifully put in our orders that morning for the night’s dinner.

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I will say that the wait time was significantly less on the second night. I think we waited about 20 minutes before our food arrived. The restaurant wasn’t very busy. We had the soup, the salad, and I had opted for the ribs. They were seriously good. There were slices of gingerbread cake for dessert.

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The day had been amazing. Giant lizards. Swimming pigs. Lap sharks. Miles of deserted beaches. The most beautiful water I had ever seen.

In just 36 hours, this place had blown my mind.

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Day Three:

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It’s my birthday!!!!!

And I couldn’t imagine a better place to be.

Unless it was on that 4 story yacht with the helicopter on top that we saw near Pig Beach.

We started off the morning by taking the girls to Ocean Beach, a long beach on Staniel Cay bordered by high dunes and cliffs, making it a great place to let them run free.

This, my friends, is what pure, unbridled dog joy looks like:

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We let the girls run and roll and swim until they were nothing more than two little sand balls.

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After we hosed them off and chased them around the deck with a blow dryer, we left the girls to nap at the Beach Shack while we headed out on the boat.

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First up? Thunderball Grotto.

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The grotto is just offshore, fairly close to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. It is a partially underwater cavern with several openings at the top that create natural sky lights. It was used in the James Bond movie, Thunderball ….in case that was not obvious from the name.

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It is best to visit at low tide to avoid having to swim underwater to find the opening. At low tide, you can simply snorkel through the opening. The current is very strong and the swimming was a little tough, but once inside, it was amazing. Light beamed down from the openings in the roof of the cave, illuminating the crystal clear water below. Tropical fish darted in and out of the light – sergeant majors, parrot fish, queen angelfish, blue chromis. It was breathtaking.

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After the grotto it was time for PIGS!!!!

I just couldn’t get enough of those pigs.

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These have to be the happiest pigs on earth. Really. They are simply in hog heaven.

Seriously, I am trying to stop with the pig puns…but I just can’t help myself. Really. It’s snout my fault.

Ok, really. I’m done. I’m done.

Th-th-that’s all f-f-folks!

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We tried to find another good spot for a snorkel, but the currents seemed pretty strong everywhere we tried, so we thought better of it and instead set off in search of another perfect beach.

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We found it at Sandy Cay.

With a beautiful beach and sandbar all to ourselves, we spent hours doing a whole lot of nothing. We drifted on the water and walked through the shallows feeling for shells with our feet. We stretched out on the sandbar and let our toes dangle in the water’s edge while the sun breathed warmly on our salty faces. We walked the beach, tossing crumbs the gulls and listening to their laughter as the wind carried it away.

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It was the best kind of day.

We had inquired with some locals about where else we might be able to find dinner and they directed us to Taste and Sea, a little waterfront place practically next door to the Beach Shack.

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We stretched out lazily on the porch watching the sun set and sipping Bahama Mamas.

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The food was GOOD and about half the price of the Yacht Club. We had conch bits and cracked lobster with crispy fries and a fresh salad. Cracked lobster is my favorite lobster. Why? Because it is FRIED. Any good southern girl will tell you that everything tastes better when it’s fried.

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As the golden half-light of the sunset danced on the water, it felt like a perfect end to a perfect day.

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Day Four:

Matt has said that I am like a little kid who has just eaten a big handful of cookies, but has to stick her hand deep in the cookie jar in search of just one more, and more often than not, my hand gets stuck, forcing a crew of firemen, a sledgehammer, the National Guard, and some Crisco to set me free.

That was a perfect description of what led to the events of our final morning.

I woke up early.

Because the Beach Shack enjoys the sunset every evening, I had not seen one sunrise since we had landed on Staniel Cay. To catch the sunrise, you had to head back over to the other side, to Ocean Beach.

I asked my girlfriend if she wanted to go see the sunrise with me. I mean, we were up, we were waiting for the guys to wake up, why not go? We had nothing else to do.

We grabbed our coffee and set off.

The Ocean Beach access is only about a 5 minute cart ride along very civilized roads. The problem is that once you get to the access, you have to ride an excruciatingly long time down a rutted dirt and sand path that is so absurdly narrow that you are forced to slide to the center of the cart, hugging the person sharing the seat with you and burying your face in the other person’s armpit so that you can avoid being covered with spider webs and pummeled to death by seagrape branches.

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As we bumped our way down the path, most of the hot coffee that was in my cup proceeded to spill down my now sticky legs. Let me rephrase that. My now hot and sticky legs.

After what seemed an eternity, we reached the “parking area.” The parking area is a wide spot of extremely loose, soft sand.

Extremely. Loose. Soft. Sand.

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The golf cart hit that sand and I, being the brain child that I am, floored it thinking I could power my way through to the other side. All I managed to do was get the cart stuck and completely bury the passenger side wheels in the sand.

Oh dear.

My friend and I might have a combined weight that barely tops 200 lbs and our arms look like breadsticks. We are also weaker than a pair of hamsters.

We were about an hour’s walk from the cottage and at least a 30 minute walk from the main road. Even if we walked back to the main road, exactly who would be driving by at 5:30 in the morning on a road where a traffic jam could be described as 3 cars a day?

Oh dear.

As we fretted and paced and considered our dilemma, I did my best Scarlett O’Hara and declared, “We won’t think about this now. We will go watch the sunrise and think about this later!”

And watch the sunrise we did.

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It was during this glorious sunrise that I realized the cup of coffee I had managed to drink earlier was now insisting upon an immediate exit from my person. Those of you who drink coffee know exactly what I mean. Coffee has a demanding effect on the body.

Oh dear.

The situation was dire. I had to think. As I paced nervously up and down the beach, sweat beading up on my brow and my insides partying like it was 1999, I saw a board that had washed up on the shore, tangled in a pile of dry seaweed.

Ah ha!

“Grab all the boards that you can find and bring them up to the cart,” I shouted. I was so excited. I had an idea and I just KNEW this was going to work!

First, we dug out the errant wheels. We dug until our poor little hands were filthy and scratched up from the sand. When we got to hard packed sand, I told Teresa that we were going to push the cart up and slide the boards underneath the wheels so that they could get traction on the stuck side.

We were giddy. We had this licked. Grinning like idiots, we got up, brushed the sand off our now crusty and abraded knees, and pushed.

Absolutely nothing. The cart didn’t budge an inch.

Seriously…what did I think? That the cart was as light as a feather and we were just going to magically lift a 700 pound golf cart…like a mother on an adrenaline high that is trying to lift an SUV off her kid? Really?

Yes. That is really what I thought.

We sighed as we slumped down beside the cart, dejected.

Oh dear.

I think Teresa reached her breaking point right about then. She jumped up and started shoving the cart.

“Stupid cart!!” she screamed as she rocked it back and forth…..”You stupid, stupid golf cart!” …..and then I saw the wheel lift.

“Keep rocking it!” I screamed. Because the cart was sitting at an angle, she was able to get just enough momentum from the rocking to lift the wheels enough for me to shove the boards underneath.

It took a while, but we rocked and lifted, shoved and dug, and after about 10 minutes, we had the boards securely under the wheels.

“Let’s give this a try,” I said as I looked at her, her eyes closed, her fingers crossed tightly.

I pressed the gas.

The cart lurched forward about 2 feet.

And proceeded to bury itself in the sand again.

We nearly cried. We were exhausted. We were hot. Our knees and hands hurt. I had a squirrel running through my abdomen. And the cart was still stuck.

“We did it once,” I said to her. “We can do it again. And again. And again. As many times as it takes to get this darn cart to that firm spot over there.”

We did it four times to be exact.

But we were finally FREE!!!!

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As we drove back to the house, I welcomed the growing pain in my arms and back, I welcomed every slap of the seagrape trees as we scraped along the little path, I even welcomed the giant spider web that became ensnared in my hair.

Why? Because it sure as hell beat having to walk an hour back to the house to see that look on Matt’s face that I know so well. That look that says, “You did WHAT?”

We got back to the house and collapsed in the air conditioning. After a good shower and some breakfast, it was all just a very bad, distant memory. It didn’t seem so bad.

Besides, I really like to go out in a dramatic fashion.

And I really, really like to get the last cookie.

The last cookie, the one you aren’t supposed to get……somehow it always tastes the sweetest.

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Posted by vicki_h 08:45 Archived in Bahamas Tagged bahamas exumas staniel_cay Comments (2)

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