From Emerald Bay, Great Exuma Island, we continued south to Long Island and anchored in Thompson Bay. Again, we rented a car with Michael and Cherie from Pura Vida to tour the island. Long Island is the island of choice for cruisers who decide the Bahamas are paradise and decide to set down roots – and I can see why. There is a cruiser’s net hosted by a cruiser turned resident that lives in a house overlooking the bay. She does a fantastic job and we took advantage of it. We put out a request for charts from the Bahamas to Grenada, if anyone had any to sell. Bam! First try, we scored all the charts except Dominican Republic.
On our drive, we stopped at a sponge “factory” where locals collected and prepared natural sponges for shipping around the world. They are popular in Europe and the Mediterranean. We met a guy who no longer goes sponging, but has them brought to him and he sorts, grades, and prepares them. He determines their value and strings like-valued sponges together. Michael asked him his whole story, but I’ll just say it was very interesting to meet someone whose life revolves around sponges.
We stopped at Dean’s Blue Hole, reputed to be the deepest blue whole in the world. It was beautiful and intimidating. Wading out one step too far on the beach and you step right off a ledge. Dave found it irresistible and dove right in several times. I took video, but we don’t have good enough Internet to post it.
After he got out, we studied a memorial next to the hole with three angel statues. Three people died in one day in the blue hole. Curiosity peaked, Dave researched the hole after we returned to the boat and found out that a lot of people have died there. Michael talked to some locals about it and learned that none of them will swim in it. They say there is a riptide that pulls people down! We don’t know if that is true or not, but I am thankful this condition didn’t exist when Dave dove in!
Along our drive we noticed a great many churches in various conditions. Some were in complete disrepair and could be called ruins. Others were being restored, such as St Athanasius. I’m glad to see the restorations. It’s such a shame to see the churches crumble away.
Some of the churches looked pristine, if not new, such as St Peter’s Church. Father Jerome was an architect turned priest who designed some of the Bahamian churches. This one was presented but not designed by Father Jerome, however. But I found it quite appealing.
From the churchyard, I watched a group of sheep wandering around. In the Bahamas we had seen a lot of goats wandering freely but this was a first for sheep. What impressed me about them was that one of the sheep stood vigil over the group. It watched me, the road, and the other sheep. Once they were all safely down the road, away from me, and out of harms way from cars, the sentinel sheep joined them. We had witnessed this type of behavior in Ireland but not by the sheep. A stallion watched the road, holding the other horses back. We stopped in our car to watch them and the stallion stepped into the road as if to hold us back. When it was deemed safe, the stallion indicated to the others to cross the road. After the others were safely across, the stallion joined them and we continued on our way. It was an awesome moment and I was surprised to see this behavior again.
Michael was still looking for plantation ruins, so we followed some signs that took us nearly four wheeling on a terrible road. Then we parked at some random clearing by the beached, walked along the shore for quite a while, turned towards the trees when we got to some conch shells, and followed a vague trail that was fairly well marked with signs for a mile or two. Finally, we crested a hill and came to the ruins. I’m not sure Michael thought it was worth it, but I thought the whole kind of spooky experience was pretty cool.
Our final stop was at the northern most point of the island, the Columbus Monument. The monument was kind of neat, but it seems odd to me that Columbus is being honored after all the native Lucayan people died off from white man’s diseases within 50 years of contact. It seems reckless, but I am sure they didn’t know that would happen. Instead, it is simply tragic.
The next morning, the wind was blowing 25 knots or more and kicking up some sizable waves in the anchorage. The farmers market was that morning, though, and I really wanted to go. So Dave and I braved the waves and dinghied ashore. It was disappointingly small and limited in choices, but I managed to score a few nice items. Vine ripened tomatoes (which mom loved), homemade hot sauce, fresh baked zucchini bread, and fresh basil made it back to the boat – and dry even. The waves were against us going ashore and soaking us to the bone, but going back we comfortably surfed the waves.