We arrived at Stocking Island yesterday evening around 5:15 - the wrong time of day to be sailing westward through a field of coral heads in a tropical paradise. To put it mildly, there were a few tense moments as we sought ranges, frantically did some dead reckoning, retraced our path twice, second-guessed our assessment of the dark patches (were they deeper water, or coral heads?). Several times, I thought of our friends on Jaru who think dead reckoning is something for the history books, and I wished we were equipped with a chart plotter to take some of the guessing work out of navigating the tricky shallows and reefs.
After 7 days and nights at sea, we were all exhausted and so grateful for the boat's motion to settle and to sleep at anchor again. Skye and I marvelled at being able to be asleep at the same time as each other for the first time in a week! Admittedly, there are some nice benefits to nighttime watches, particularly under a full moon. The views can be beautiful, I was able to read my page-turning novel, Rain of Gold (thanks, Compass Rose!), I have beaten a few records in Sudoku, and I'm becoming a Catan champion. As long as we don't have rain, I can have the iPad or iPhone in the cockpit, so I can play games, do puzzles and read e-books to my heart's content, while playing my favourite iTunes without disturbing slumbering crew.
Excited to have internet connectivity again, we spent this morning catching up with fb and gmail, doing a few google searches for those pressing questions that inevitably came up during the passage, and enjoying our friend's blog about their trip to Europe. Skye is pining after Italy (he spent 4 days in Italy last summer and fell in love with Cinque Terre and is determined to take us there as a family someday). We finally got cleaned up, dressed in our "customs" outfits (no Bob Marley t-shirts for Austin, cotton button shirts for the rest of us), bailed the dinghy (lots of rain-filled thunder storms last night), climbed aboard and set off on the 15-minute wet ride to Georgetown.
Thankfully, Skye had studied the charts and the "Need-to-know" section of Victoria Lake before we left, so he was prepared to go to the end of the Georgetown harbour, drive under a bridge where only our dinghy would fit, and tie up at the huge (comparatively, in our experience) dinghy dock alongside Exuma Market.
Around 1:00, we all hopped out of the dinghy, hungry for lunch, but accepting that clearing in would be our first priority. We were greeted by a familiar Scotiabank logo on a large building across the street, so I stopped to use the ATM to withdraw the $300 USD we would need for clearing in to the Bahamas. This is a 12-month permit, but we’ll only use it for 3-4 days (so they’d better be good!). We proceeded to the Post Office (which is advertised to house both Customs and Immigration), but before reaching it, noticed a sign reading, “Bahamas Customs” on a non-descript boxy building. Skye glanced back at me, raised his eyebrows, shrugged his shoulders and decided to check it out. It was the right place, he’d need about 15 minutes, then the rest of us would have to join him. I bought the boys some cold drinks while we waited and A1 & A2 got their first Bahamian quarters. The clerk assured me that Bahamian money would be worth nothing anywhere else in the world, so I promised him I’d spend it while we’re here.
Skye finished up at Customs around 2:00 and was directed to Immigration, in a business complex about 3 blocks away. I stopped in at the Tourism office in the same complex while Skye filled out 5 detailed forms at Immigration. Today, we learned, was a local government election, so many establishments (particularly most restaurants and bars) were closed for business. Lunch just wasn’t in the cards, though the information officer at the Tourism Bureau recommended we go to the hotel across the street from Customs, and adjacent to a small park.
This hotel was conveniently located across the street from a shop that sells courtesy flags, so we needed to go back in that direction, anyway, and by 3:00 we all really needed something to eat and drink. The boys were getting antsy and I just wanted to stick to our plan - that’s one thing I’m not sure I ever fully adjusted to, on this Caribbean adventure - plans change ... expect the unexpected ... don’t expect businesses to be open in the middle of the afternoon in the middle of the week ... and don’t expect stores to carry the merchandise you’re seeking. When we reached the hotel, we were told that the restaurant was closed for the election and would open again at 6:30pm.
On to Plan B, with a side trip to the playground, as promised to A3. Skye looked up at the clouds and said we had weather coming, so we’d better just go to the grocery store to pick up enough food for dinner, then hurry back to the boat. I lobbied for 5 minutes at the park, then he suggested that he and A1 go ahead and start shopping - we could all meet up at the store later. And just at that moment, A3 announced he had to go pee, and it was imminent - he was dancing around holding his shorts and we knew we had to act fast. Skye and Austin left while I took A3 to find a tree. A2 was with us, but when A3 finished, the park was empty except for a sweet 7-year-old girl who had introduced herself to us as Looney Larsden. I said goodbye to Looney, explaining that we had to hurry back to our boat because of the weather, and she asked me if I like to read books. I said, “Yes,” and asked her what books she likes to read, and she said, “Junie B.” I responded, “Junie B. Jones? Those are great books.” I was pleased to be able to connect with this beautiful local girl, and she was obviously impressed that I knew what she was talking about.
I carried a very upset and disappointed A3 away from the park and briskly walked to the supermarket where we spotted Skye right away. Austin was wandering the aisles with the shopping cart, and I never once wondered where Aidan was. He must have been somewhere in the crowded store, browsing the merchandise.
After about 30 minutes, we finished at the checkout and left the store. Austin asked me, “Do you know where Aidan is?” and I responded unconcernedly, “No.” A1 shrieked, “What?!?” and it finally hit me. Where was Aidan? Had I left him at the park? Skye took A1, A3 and the groceries back to the dinghy and I raced to the park. I found Looney still there and asked her if she had seen Aidan, then she said, “No.” My heart was in my throat. Tears were forming in my eyes. I was haunted by my best friend’s only concern for us on this journey, “I’d worry about losing one of my children.” I had flashes of my handsome, photogenic, friendly, smart son and how desirable he could be to someone bent on kidnapping a child. Then Looney called out to me that Aidan had gone, “over there,” as she pointed to the harbour dock. I followed where her arm was pointing, and oh, mercy of mercies, Aidan appeared in a full grin beside Looney, walking alongside the Customs office.
I was so relieved to see him in such good shape. I had half expected to find him reduced to tears in a huddle in the park, but he was smiling, laughing, and walking confidently toward me. I said, “Goodbye,” again to Looney and asked Aidan what had happened. I’d thought he must have gone to the store with Skye and Austin, but Aidan explained he had met a boy in a Lego shirt and was talking with him while I was helping A3 behind the tree. We held hands and laughed about everything. Aidan had been waiting for us at the dinghy, and I praised him for how he handled being separated from us. He did all the right things. He joked that he figured, even if we had forgotten about him, at least we couldn’t go back to the boat without him, if he were already in the dinghy!!
Phew! I’m glad that turned out as well as it did! Actually, the people in Georgetown have all been friendly and we feel very safe here - didn’t even lock up the dinghy today.