Sunday, January 20, 2013

Welcome to Paradise

We love having guests join us on Flying Cloud, but getting ready for their arrival is usually a major fire drill. You make many concessions when living on a boat, the biggest of which is living in the space of a large closet. Since the Conner's genetically travel light, we have the entire menagerie of books, tools, snorkeling gear, fishing poles, grill for the BBQ, suitcases, canvas boat bags, bikes and kayaks. Most of this lives in the guest berth, which we fondly refer to as "the garage." It is piled high with junk; so much so that we have to tie everything down when we go offshore least we have a major junk avalanche at sea.

Since many of our guests would take umbrage at sharing their berth with a bicycle or kayak, all of this stuff needs to find a home somewhere else prior to the guests' arrival. So for the last few days we've been frantically searching out new locations for all our stuff. The suitcases go at the foot of our bed, the kayaks go on the foredeck, the bikes behind the granny bars at the base of the mast, and everything else gets stuffed -- and I do mean stuffed -- into the forward storage locker. When we're finally done stowing everything, I marvel at the uncluttered guest berth and smile as Meryl fluffs the pillows and puts a nice note and a piece of chocolate on the bed.

Now soaked in sweat, we take a quick shower and rush to catch the 3:00 pm ferry boat from Hope Town to Marsh Harbor, about six miles across the channel. Luckily there is a taxi waiting so we jump in and urge the driver (Paulette) to make haste to the airport since we're now running late. Paulette shows little concern and coyly points out the airplane circling overhead as we approach the airport. I forgot that small town airports are like that.

We jump out of the cab just as the plane taxis up and prepare for an hour-long wait as our friends clear Bahamian Customs. Trying to compose ourselves we peek into the customs hall (the size of a small living room) only to see our former neighbors, and long time friends Paul and Irene Ballew walk through the door. We quickly assume our "laid back in Paradise pose" and welcome them to the Abacos. For someone from Seattle I'm sure they are just happy it isn't raining.

Paul and Irene land in Paradise.
Paulette is still waiting so we pile into the cab, exchange a years worth of news, and amazingly make it back to catch the 4:00 pm ferry to Hope Town. While they have traveled extensively, Paul and Irene are swivel-necked as the ferry passes by drop-dead waterfront homes and picturesque islands and reefs.

Hope Town Inn and Marina.
The entrance to Hope Town is especially interesting as the channel narrows down to almost nothing and then does a dog leg right and left to enter the hidden harbor, once a favorite haunt for pirates. The ferry drops us off at the Hope Town Inn and Marina and rather than rush down to the boat we stop at the beautiful outdoor bar/pool to have a drink and relax.

Outdoor lunch in Hope Town is radically different than an outdoor lunch in Seattle in January.
Thanks to our orders of a locally invented drink, the Goombay Smash (1 oz. dark rum, 1 oz. coconut rum, 1/4 oz. apricot brandy, 2 oz. pineapple juice, and 2 oz. orange juice . . . and remember, rum is cheaper hear than water), we are feeling no pain, or our tongues for that matter, after a few drinks. To acclimate them we also order an appetizer of conch fritters, a first time food treat for the Ballews (tastes just like chicken).

After a short walk down to the dock we introduced them to their new closet, err guest berth, for the next week. A tradition when guests arrive on a cruising sailboat is the giving of gifts, in this case six fan belts for the engine and genset, one Balmar electronic regulator, six cruising guides to the Windward/Leeward islands, and three large cans of WSU Cougar Gold cheese. Now Paul knows why I urged him to "pack light and leave a little extra room in your bag." It's not true that cruisers refer to arriving guests as "my parts delivery service."

Meryl prepared a great mixed salad and Paul and I experimented with blowing ourselves up as we tried to keep the BBQ lit in the 10-knot wind while cooking steaks. After a great dinner in the cockpit (the temp actually dropped down to 75 degrees) we retired to the saloon to get caught up on our lives, careers, kids, and especially, grand kids.

What a great evening with great friends.

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