On Easter Saturday we motored out of Norman’s Cut and then made the most of a brisk easterly to sail down to Black Point, which would be the southernmost point of our Bahamas voyage this time around. 1530 saw us edge our way around a big sandbank and enter the bay from the north. About 15 other sailboats and trawlers were anchored in the bay, but there was plenty of room and we found a good spot in about 8 ft of water just south of the Government Dock. Thankfully we didn’t go any further inshore – the skipper of the Italian boat that did had a surprise the next morning when he woke up in the shadow of a Bahamian freighter negotiating its way in just a few feet from his boat.
The Black Point community has a really nice feel to it. The people are welcoming, but tourism is not their focus - it’s more about church, the school and the local businesses. Kids jump and swim off the dock and old people plait palm leaves in the shade in their front gardens. There are a couple of pleasant little restaurants serving simple meals like fried grouper, burgers or conch salad, and the small general store and laundry are both run by friendly and obliging locals. There is a rubbish trailer and a free fresh water pump for cruisers to use. Most people make some kind of donation as thanks for these valuable services. We gave a pack of four life-jackets to the school – the Principal was very grateful as they were planning to buy some.
To celebrate Easter, I went along to a service at St Lukes Baptist Church – dragged out my most respectable gear for the occasion, but it was nothing compared to the fine silk suits, race-day hats and BIG heels worn by the local ladies. I think the theory goes that, the higher your hat and heels, the closer you are to heaven. The service was in the gospel tradition – with not enough hymn-books and Bibles to go around, we sang and prayed by call and response. The lady leading the service was quite formidable. She had the biggest hat of all – modelled on a bishop’s mitre with lots of gold braid – and a spine-tinglingly powerful voice. There was a pastor, but there was no doubt about who was really in charge of proceedings. The singing was amazing. After so many years attending Anglican school services where a half-hearted mutter is the best you can expect, I found the sound of a hundred men, women and children giving it everything they’ve got, with harmonies and shouted responses, quite overwhelming. The service was long, but participation kept everyone involved – the occasional crying baby was passed around until it settled, while fidgety boys were sent to sit next to a stern-looking gentleman who was obviously some kind of enforcer. He started with a pew to himself, and ended the service with a line of five perfectly behaved little boys beside him.
The only other non-Bahamians at the service were a couple – cruisers also, by their clothes – the woman playing keyboard alongside a local boy on drums, and the man sitting at the back of the church. At an invitation from the pastor, the man produced a set of bagpipes and gave a stirring rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’. And amazing it was – such a contrast of cultures, but each wonderful in its own way. After the service I was given a lift in a golf cart back to the main dock by the stern gent, who turned out to be a very affable and funny fellow, despite the façade. Met up with Terry who had been exploring, and had found a blowhole where waves from Exuma Sound sent plumes of spray 30 ft or so in the air. The area was encircled, not only by salt and seaweed, but by piles of driftwood, nets, rope and plastic debris that had all been shot up through the gap. He had also found an old cemetery, including the grave of Emeretta Sweeting whose dates were 1884 to 1989, making her 105 years old.
Stopping at DeShamon’s restaurant for lunch, we ordered fish fingers (fresh grouper, not the Birds-eye kind) and who should walk in a few minutes later but the musical duo from the church service. We all introduced ourselves – they were an English couple who have been cruising for years aboard their beautiful Amel 54 Caduceus of Burnham. (The caduceus is the winged sceptre with entwined snakes, symbol of the medical profession. Elizabeth is a retired doctor). Their names were Elizabeth and Martin – yes, really!
We settled in for lunch and a chat, and heard lots of stories and good advice about cruising in Britain and the Mediterranean. Before we realised it, four hours had sped by and it was time to dinghy back to Common Sense before dark. Yet again, one of the great pleasures of cruising is the interesting and inspiring people you meet along the way.