Sunday, April 16, 2006
Clarence Town is one of our favorite Bahamian communities. Located on Long Island (no the other Long Island) it actually has soil for farming. From the government Packing House we could buy fresh, island grown produce, not the wilted, unhappy, and very expensive bundles brought in by boat and sold as vegetables on other islands. Clarence town had many other amenities that we appreciated, internet at the gas station, a nice store, and lovely people. St. Peter Catholic Church shone from a tall hill over the town. Built by Father Jerome, it is stunning. (If you do not remember Father Jerome, please return to the Cat Island Entry).
Many towns in the Bahamas struggle to survive in the harsh, arid islands. In the 1800's, Albert Town had 2,000 residents and Long Cay was called Fortune Island. Its thriving economy was based on providing services to sailing ships and with the emergence of steam power the community lost this market and was virtually abandoned. There are now only about 30 residents, few businesses, and many wild goats.
During the past weeks we haven't called, skyped, or emailed but it isn't for lack of trying. We'll describe one of our recent attempts to explain our silence.
1. We take the dingy to town, anchor it to a crack in the concrete pier since there are no tie downs, and head down the long, uninhabited, and dusty road which passes only ruins, spontaneous dumps, and feral goats. The goats are terrified of us and frantically dive into the scrub as we approach. They do not cooperate with any photo opportunities.
For several weeks we sailed from lovely place to lovely place: Samana, Mayaguana, Acklins Island, Long Island...We walked beaches, swam, sailed, caught fish (or tried to), and enjoyed the pleasure of exploring. We even ran into some nudists. It is great fun for us but what can we show the folks back home? Sunrises, sunsets, water, sky, and beaches have been over played already and middle aged nudists are not a crowd pleaser either. So, how about one more sunrise?
We left Cat Island for several all night sails and the promise of favorable winds. The wind and waves were more lively than expected and after a long night of rough riding it was a pleasure to anchor off Samana Cay, an uninhabited and isolated island. We caught fish from the cockpit and walked long beautiful beaches. It was a great place for sea beans and we found 74 hearts and 8 hamburgers. We're rich! Thanks to our sea bean teachers, Pat, Chris, Natalia, and Danielle.
Monday, April 10, 2006
Father Jerome built his hermitage in a traditional architectural design but on a scale of one and it is the only example of the "Tiny Monumental Monastic" style that we have seen. The massive walls, flying buttresses, domes, and tower are impressive and formidable, even in the diminutive range. The going is tight for even average sized visitors and we had to stoop and scrape our way through narrow corridors and low door ways. Vinnie sustained at least one closed head injury which still provides him with penance.
With the starter starting and the winds fair, we left Georgetown early in the morning for Cat Island. We were drawn to the island by the hermitage of Father Jerome. Early the next morning, we found ourselves walking up an empty road with the hermitage looming over us from the highest hill in the Bahamas.
Thanks to Pat Vance, of Twice in a Blue Moon for this historical background : "Father Jerome, born John Hawes to a wealthy English family in 1876, studied
architecture and theology, and was ordained in the Church of England. As an
Anglican, he built several churches in the Bahamas starting in 1908.
Strongly influenced by St. Francis of Assisi, he eventually traveled to
Rome where he was ordained a Catholic priest, taking the name Father
Jerome. After 25 years in the Australian bush, a heart attack in 1939 at
the age of 62 led him back to the Bahamas to erect a hermitage. Father
Jerome renamed the summit Mount Alvernia, after the hermitage St. Francis
built. He carried water up the steep hill, cut limestone block, mixed
mortar, dug a well and cistern, and erected a chapel, living quarters, and
a bell tower, mostly alone. Seventeen years later, Father Jerome died, and
he was buried in a small cave next to his hermitage, barefoot in his
priest's robes, according to his wishes."
Finally, it was time to leave George Town, but first Vinnie had to replace the starter. The delay gave us time to hang out at Bal Sounds, the internet - taxi cab - electronic store, catch our email, and try to update the blog without success. Best of all, we were able to enjoy seeing Pat and Michael from Twice in a Blue Moon one last time.