Saturday, January 4, 2014

To Lock or Not to Lock

My view from the laundromat.  Alberta Crewed is the last boat on the left. 
We are anchored in a quiet bay on the north end of Great Guana Cay in the Exumas Bahamas.  It is just 5 miles from Staniel Cay harbour that is lined with dozens of +100 foot power yachts, and several +200 footers with accompanying run about boats that are larger that Alberta Crewed.   Great Guana is filled with our folk, the sailors.

Before our anchor had the chance to set Craig declared, “I really love this place.  I might not leave.”  He continued this mantra as we explored Black Point, the village in our bay, which is not unlike others we have explored in the past.  It has one paved road running parallel to the bay, a few low-roofed houses, a small school, a grocery store with a few canned goods and lots of cabbages, two small bars where locals and sailors mingle, and Lorraine’s Restaurant where we can get her mother’s coconut bread.  Bread in general is hard to find and these tasty loaves are infamous. 

Although we have enjoyed every destination over the past four seasons on our boat, this is one of a few we are inexplicably drawn to.  It has a peaceful energy and we have since come to know some of the people who live here.  We had a delicious New Years’ Eve buffet dinner Lorraine had cooked for the sailing community.  Her children and young grandchildren sat with us and visited as we enjoyed some musical entertainment.  They smiled and welcomed us in spite of our noisy and sometimes obnoxious North American customs.

When arriving to a new place, a dilemma we encounter is whether or not to lock up the dinghy.  We cruisers zoom noisily around harbours in our little grey pontoon boats leaving wakes that can rock dishes off shelves, stir up bottoms and break corals, and scar and injure wildlife.  Most people we know are careful not to ride with such carelessness but we have seen more than a few scarred manatees, dolphins, and sea stars.

As we tied up our dinghy to the dock for the first time last Monday, I eyed our lock.  We use it because we are fearful of strangers.  We think they will rob us of our precious dinghies.  How do the residents feel when we arrive?  We are strangers to them.  How do they know we are not here to rob them?  We arrive daily to these islands dumping our garbage, using their precious power and water, and relying on their supply ships for food.  If a cruiser is robbed (which is extremely rare) or there is even a rumor of a violation, the bay empties out and the community loses a primary source of revenue.   In Trinidad, there were a couple of dinghy thefts and the local business people hired private security to try to keep cruisers from fleeing.  These are small businesses with very little profit margins.

So what do we do about the lock to the dock?  It is only one small symbol of the bigger need to observe and listen, and tread as softly as we can when we arrive as the Stranger.  These islands have long histories of invasions from the sea.  I prefer to be the curious kind who may humbly learn about another way to live.  I cannot leave a place better than I found it because my presence of privilege already impacts life here.  We at least try not to make it worse and instead watch and listen for local conventions and practices.  There are places we avoid not because they are unsafe but because they are the private spaces of people who live here.  Sometimes we are invited into homes, which we gladly and gratefully accept.   I picked up several loaves of Lorraine’s mom’s bread right from her kitchen and we chatted at length about our families and life on the island.  As I left, she told me how she bakes the bread with with love.  Her kindness will be carried on Alberta Crewed for several delicious weeks.

As for the dinghy, we didn’t lock it.   I think we’re safe. 

A squall passing at sunset.

1 comment:

  1. Craig and Laurie:
    Happy New Year - I loved the Exumas when there 30+ years ago - glad to hear some spots are still not too touristy. We're looking forward to revisiting on "Indigo" in a couple of years time.
    Paul and Maureen
    "Indigo" 44i hull #21