Swing Set

Apr 23, 201302:23 PM

Swing Set: Cruising Full Time

Allans-Pennsecola Cay

We didn't leave Fox Town on Sunday like we had planned. In the morning, there were plenty of rain clouds in the area and more were heading in our direction. Monday was looking better as far as the forecast went, so we decided to stay put. Even though we were only going to travel eight miles to the east, there's no sense on leaving an anchorage when you have a good hook set if you don't have to. By mid-afternoon the sun stuck its head out briefly. We put on our rain gear for insurance (it won't rain if you put on the raincoat), gathered our week's worth of trash, put Holly in her Sunday best and motored the nearly one mile across to Da Valley in Fox Town.

The dock at Fox Town Shell, where the bar/restaurant Da Valley is located, sits on tall pilings that are not suited for getting on and off a dinghy. Most visitors are directed to tie up at a neighboring building with a deck right over the water. A wide wooden ladder provides the means to climb up and to tie up. If you aren't the first one there, you're out of luck.

I'd told Rosie we would bring the one bag of trash that we had, but we would leave it in the dinghy until we saw if there was an opportunity to dump it somewhere. The last thing I wanted to do was be accused of sitting out on anchor and avoiding the town, only to come in when we needed to dump garbage. That's not what it was, but it was how it would appear.

In the photo, you may be able to see Swing Set way out past the rocks and a catamaran anchored pretty far off in the distance, too. The sailboat tied to the dock had been towed in the day before. They'd lost power and were calling for two days for help, but didn't issue a distress call. I only heard a boat calling Spanish Cay. There was no evidence of anyone being in trouble. More about them later.

We walked in to Da Valley and were met by a half-dozen locals in a very spartan room housing a plain wooden bar and a pool table. A dining room was off to one end, and the deck was out front. A kitchen and bathrooms were toward the back. This would be the site of our Sunday afternoon activities, nearly seven hours of them.

We met Judy Russel, the owner, one of her daughters, and then we met Ronald, Judy's husband. We grabbed two seats at the bar and ordered two Kaliks, after finding out the price, which was $4 each, a steep price but seems to be the going rate. No one else at the bar was having anything, just hanging out. We found out the grocery store was closed on Sundays, a fact that didn't surprise me. We didn't really need anything, but we would've bought some eggs and  limes if they'd them. Certainly, they would have limes, but eggs would be a stretch. We might've even bought a case of Kaliks, but like I said, they weren't open.

We began to meet the locals as they came in. Everyone was very friendly towards us. I was soon told that to them, we were like royalty. I don't really like being treated like royalty, but when you consider the alternative, I guess it was OK.

I went out on the deck to make a call on Magic Jack. My dad didn't answer, so I called some friends in Florida because I was on the WiFi at Da Valley and the call was free. I did eventually get a call in to my father and we had a brief conversation. As I completed my calls, a fella approached me and introduced himself. I thought he said his name was Curtis, so I said, "Pleased to meet you, Curtis."

"No!...It's KIRKWOOD! K-I-R-K-W-O-O-D," he spelled out. Then, he proceeded to list all the services he was prepared to avail upon us. Anyting we need, brudda. Our freezer was full, so I didn't want any fish, or "summer crab," so after a brief description of all the services he himself provided as an "attendant" there at Da Valley, then came what I was expecting, a request for money.

As I have said before, I don't hand out money to anyone. And, if KIRKWOOD had asked for $1 or $5, I would've politely declined his request. But Kirkwood had asked for $6. I had to ask myself, why the number six? He said it was only to be "a loan" and that no one could see me give it to him or he would get in trouble. I was intrigued by the amount, and the clandestine nature of his request, so I said I'd loan him the money. How repayment was going to be facilitated was another mystifying concept.

 

I went to the bathroom and withdrew six $1 bills from my wallet. I palmed the bills and went back to the deck and was prepared to slip them discreetly to Kirkwood, but he wasn't having any of it. "Don't do dat, mon. Don't do dat." He was in fear of being seen taking money from me to the point of paranoia. I got up and on my way back inside, I slipped the bills under the tarpaper on the side of the building and said to Kirkwood, "Look here." He did.

Soon after, Kirkwood entered the bar like he was loaded, a new man had arrived. He approached one friend and bought him a Dr. Pepper with one of his newly acquired dollars. Another chum got a Coke for the same amount. I was starting to like this guy. Later on, I whispered to Kirkwood that it was time to repay the loan. I asked him to go to our dinghy and get the bag on trash we had on board and get rid of it for us. He was happy to oblige and promptly did so. He was happy, and so were we. I later received a respectful "knuckle bump" from our new friend.

A woman from the sailboat out front had come into the bar seeking information about when was the next high tide. We talked to her some and found out their story. Her husband had changed out the Racor fuel filter on their diesel engine but didn't purge the air from the fuel line, so the engine wouldn't start. So, for a simple item like that, they'd become disabled at sea. I asked the woman why her husband didn't stay put where they were, which is where we are now at Allans-Pennsecola Cay, and she said her husband wanted to try to sail back to Fox Town. It gets worse.

During the transit, one of their dogs, a four-pound toy poodle, went topside to barf (not bark) over the side and got swept off the boat. With no power, there was no way to turn around in the wind, so they watched the dog swim for its life as they blew back toward Fox Town. Even with the tiny life jacket that the dog had on, there wasn't much chance of it surviving. I don't know if the woman was in possession of all of her faculties, but she didn't seem too upset by the situation. I know that Rosie and I would've been inconsolable. The very thought is still bothering us even today.

A few other things that the woman revealed to me, and Ronald was listening in, had me convinced that her and her husband had no business being out in their little sailboat. I even asked her if her husband was making any comments about suicide. At one point, I looked at Ronald and said that we needed to go have a "talk" with this woman's husband. He agreed, but we didn't do it. Apart from never trying to date a hooker, two more things a man should never do is tell another man what he should do with his wife, or his boat. I gave the woman our card and told her to call us if they needed any help, as they were going in the same general direction as we were. I hope to never hear from them.

We met Freddie, the mechanic who fixed the fuel problem on the sailboat. He was making a decent living there in Fox Town, just doing anything he could to survive. Knowing how to fix things always gives a person a leg up when they are around others who don't. Kirkwood came over to Freddie and engaged him in conversation, and it was obvious that Kirkwood was a pariah in the community, even given his largess with found money. Kirkwood was pounding on Freddie's back in exclamation at the end of every sentence until Freddie finally said, "Kirkwood, if you hit me one more time, I'm gonna knock you out!"

The place became deathly quiet until Kirkwood made a quick apology and a quicker exit, only to slip back in and ask me for another loan. This one I declined.

By dark, the place was full of customers, and we were making a big dent in their Kalik supply. Judy began getting them from a cooler in the back, and they were nearly ice, a good thing when beer tastes like Kalik does. We weren't in Kansas anymore, and I don't like to overstay my welcome in a place with a pool table and a plentiful supply of alcohol, even if I'm the one drinking most of it.

We ordered a plate of cracked conch to go and asked for our bill. Seven hours of pounding Kaliks for both of us, plus just one order of conch brought our total just into three digits. I had to get a 20 from Rosie for the tip. Judy handed us the biggest container of fried cracked conch we'd ever seen, piled high with lightly battered conch, a little bit of fries and a tiny cup of slaw. We had heard Judy pounding away at the fresh conch before deep frying it. It was the best conch we ever ate. Period.

On Monday morning, it was raining pretty hard. I looked at the radar and saw a break in the weather that was to happen about mid-day. When the sun came up, we pulled up anchor and headed to Allans-Pennesecola. As we left the harbor, Ronald came on the radio to say goodbye to "Mike and Rosie." We may have left a good impression.

I kept an eye out for a little dog swimming in circles all the way into our anchorage, where there were four boats nestled in. We picked out a good spot that wouldn't interfere with anyone and set a hook. I dove down on the hook to confirm a good hold because we had rocks on our lee side. We had another one of our great "surf and turf" dinners, and after dinner, I used some of the chicken bones to put a couple of lines out in the hope of catching dinner for the next night.

We played some gin rummy and enjoyed a quiet night. This morning, the wind had swung us around and was forecasted to whip up later in the day, so I dove on the anchor again and positioned it better in the sand. On the way back to the boat, I found a small conch crawling along the sea bed minding its own business. Things didn't bode well for the conch, as it became bait. One thing I learned from a fisherman at Da Valley was how to use conch for bait, which there is always a good supply. I have a rod out there now, baited with the rascal, as I write this blog.

Tomorrow, we start heading southeast along the cays that make up the eastern chain of the Abacos. We'll stay a day or two at each anchorage as we head towards Green Turtle Cay, where we might get a slip and visit a grocery.

I've also forgotten to tell about the one Bora fan that failed on the boat, just as we got to Bimini. We'll try to find a replacement if possible, and we're going to be in areas that might have such a thing. If that's the worst of our problems for a while, we'll be lucky.

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