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.
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 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.
The flight down to Abaco never disappoints me. The views from above are nothing short of a miracle of nature.
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.
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:
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.
As can meeting a new friend.
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.
Good morning, Guana Cay!
There is nothing I love more than a long, slow walk on the beach to watch the Guana sunrise.
It was Sunday, so we made our way to Nippers. Of course we did.
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.
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.
But then these guys showed up and all hell broke loose:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This drink was not only delicious, it was gorgeous. Like a little tie-dye cup of happy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We caught Austin from Lubbers Landing doing his thing. He was amazing on that kite board.
The guys anchored the boat.
Or so we thought.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Or maybe they were just enticed by the free shot of Patron for a successful ring.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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????
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.
We finally made it. I hate to admit how pretty Bakers Bay is, but yeah, it’s pretty. Even at night.
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.
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.
We managed to make it through the night without Johnny ringing another bell. Actually, he’ll probably never ring another bell. Ever.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have never seen anything like it.
Oh, dear sweet Jesus, my hair – I was tapping my inner Chewbacca.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We also found Harrison.
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:"
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.
As it always does, it started off nice enough.
But then these guys showed up again.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to Nippers.............. the thongs come out again.
Let's just say there was a lot of patriotic enthusiasm that day.
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.
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.
We headed back to Nippers to catch the fireworks with Harrison.
The guys got up really early the next morning to go fishing. The sky was exceptionally gorgeous that morning.
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.
When the boys returned, we packed up the boat and headed to Man-O-War.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We enjoyed picturesque Man-O-War before calling it a day and heading back to Guana.
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.
The Greek salad was fresh and the lobster was incredibly tender.
We wrapped it up with a final Grabber as the lights of the sailboats bobbled about in the harbor.
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.