Saturday, June 2, 2018

Festival groupies

This morning finds us again under way, along the bank on the leeward side of Cat Island to Arthurs Town at the north end. We have our fingers crossed that when we arrive, we will find minimal swell. We've heard the anchorage there can be miserable in some conditions.

Yesterday we dropped the hook shortly after I posted here, just a quarter mile off the town dock at the New Bight settlement (map). I spent the last twenty minutes of the trip on the flybridge so I could see the corals, as we were in just a dozen feet of water. One sailboat was already anchored here and we gave them a respectable distance. Two megayachts were anchored off the beach a few miles south.

Vector and s/v Loose Seal, as seen from The Hermitage.

It was the Labour Day holiday, and we were concerned that the restaurants might not be open, so I made a few calls on the way in. The very nice proprietor of the Bridge Inn said they were open for dinner but we had to put our order in ahead of time. It's a ways in from the beach so we asked where to land, and they said they would pick us up at the dock. Louise ordered the grouper and I order pork chops.

We splashed the tender right after anchoring and then spent a half hour on deck with a cold beer. I had suggested 6:30 for dinner but they asked if we could come at 6 instead, and so just a few minutes before 6 we zipped over to the dock. Disembarking at this dock involved pushing up against a rock and scrambling a few feet up.

Scalar at the dock. We clambered up the rocks at the side, then lined it into deeper water.

A few minutes later a pickup truck rolled up and we piled in the front seat with Lysse for the short drive to the restaurant. On the way we picked up a hitchhiker who rode in the bed; this sort of hitching is commonplace in the islands. Lysse (short for Ulysses) was also our server.

As we pulled up to the restaurant, which is part of a 12-room inn, the property was full of Bahamian schoolchildren in uniform. Strange, considering today was a school holiday. We learned at dinner that the Cat Island Rake and Scrape Festival is this weekend, featuring bands young and old from all over the islands. Many of these children had come down from Nassau and they were staying at the inn. The festival is actually in Arthurs Town, about a forty minute drive north.

Bahamians love festivals. This one is every year on Labour Day Weekend.

Our dinner was excellent, and aside from some of the aforementioned children traipsing through, we dined alone. The restaurant had previously served their young charges a buffet dinner; when we were there the kids were awaiting transportation to take them to the festival for their performance. The proprietor also wanted to go up to the event, which is why she asked us to come in early.

Considering the festival also runs all day today, we decided we'd get an early start and head up that way, in the hopes of catching the Battle of the Bands finals and maybe some of the evening music. We also expect to find some food stalls there. It's a four to five hour cruise, so we wanted to get an early start.

Gateway to The Hermitage on Como Hill.

That meant wrapping up our visit to New Bight this morning. One of the attractions here is the highest point in the Bahamas, Mount Como (aka Mount Alvernia), at 206' above sea level. Atop this hill sits The Hermitage, constructed in 1939 from local stone by Catholic priest Monsignor John Hawes, known locally as Father Jerome.

It looks like a rock face, but there are rough-hewn rock steps leading all the way up.

From the bay, The Hermitage looks like a distant monastery of significant proportions. In fact, it is much closer than it looks, a hike of just 3/4 mile from the dock, owing to the fact that he constructed it in miniature. It is said to be 5/8 scale; we both had to duck to clear the doorways.

Louise standing in front of the chapel gives some scale.

It took us twenty minutes or so to reach the summit; it was slow going because one of Louise's shoes broke halfway up. We scaled the last thirty feet or so on the original hewn stone staircase, through the Stations of the Cross. The site, which still belongs to the Archdiocese of Nassau, is very well kept. We went through the small chapel and adjacent rooms, looked into the crypts, saw the cistern and catchment system, and I climbed the straight ladder to the belfry.

Looking out the belfry. There is a cast iron bell behind my head, and I am standing on a rung embedded in the walls.

We opted to walk out the somewhat longer but less steep route via the dirt road. Once back on pavement, a 15-minute walk brought us back to the dock. About halfway down we encountered our sailboat neighbors, on their way up. It was very nice to meet Meghan and Ben and their dog, Mason, from s/v Loose Seal. They, too, are thinking about heading to Arthurs Town and thence to Little San Salvador, so perhaps we will run into them again.

Louise signs the guest book at the altar. Dozens of names were inscribed yesterday, we assume by the visiting schoolchildren.

After arriving back at Vector we immediately decked the tender. I am now having to tilt the motor by grabbing the lower unit and heaving it away from the transom with the dinghy hanging just at boat deck level. I have a new tilt tube to replace this corroded one, but I am worried that without access to more parts and help, I can easily get halfway through the replacement and not be able to finish, which would leave us without a tender altogether.

Who knew there were US survey benchmarks in the Bahamas?

We should be arriving off the Arthur Town dock by 3pm. If conditions are unacceptable we'll have to go south to Bennetts Harbour. From there we can either dinghy in the 3.5 miles, or hitch a ride. We're hoping we'll get to see some of the same kids we met yesterday perform at the festival.

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