Message in a Bottle

Fear not, everyone! I found Billy. After I had wandered around the very tiny town of Georgetown in the rain for almost four hours, we met just a few feet from where we had parted. I killed time by exploring, making phone calls, using internet, and finally going out to lunch with the last of my money. Billy had relocated the boat to another part of this huge harbor, and totally underestimated the distance from where the new anchorage was to the town. He had his bike, but no dinghy, so therefore no way for me to get back to the boat. We contemplated our (sorry…HIS) dilemma over beers at a bar, and the owner, Raymond Smith, overheard us. He thought our situation was quite comical, and offered to give us and the bike a ride back to where Billy had left the dinghy. Long story even longer….the tide had gone way out, so there was no way for Billy to bring the dinghy close to my pick up spot. In the end, we had to ride the bike together; me sitting on the seat, him pedaling, just like when we were teenagers. We finally made it back to the mothership, and had a very restful night’s sleep in a peaceful and wind protected anchorage. Of course, we were miles away from anything and everybody. I kept wondering why we were here.

The next day I expressed my desires to experience at least a bit of everything this place has to offer. We listen to the cruiser’s net on the VHF every morning, which gives many announcements about what is happening around the harbor.. Georgetown is like summer camp for grownups. There is softball, volleyball, board games played at the beach, yoga-lates on the beach, various group discussions, excursions, beaches and coves to explore, reefs to snorkel or dive, friendly Bahamains to meet. The list is endless. After waiting for so many years to get here, I want to live the experiences that I have heard and read about. Partake. Enjoy. Billy reminded me that he is not really a social guy. WTF??

We heard on the net that there was a group of people having a “ham lunch” with a discussion about ham radios and getting licensed to operate one. This is something I had first considered and began studying for 10 years ago, when we bought Bonnie Christine. Circumstances and situations at that time forced me to set the study books aside. But, having a single side band radio gives a cruiser so many different ways to communicate, get information, weather reports, etc. Ironically, right before I flew down to meet up with Mr. Bill, I picked up my old study books which were in my spare bedroom, and glanced through them. At the time, my thoughts of getting this “technician’s class license” was rekindled. But I did not pack the books, thinking I had plenty of other things to study on the boat.

So I was very interested in going to this lunch on “Hamburger Beach”, a popular meeting spot for cruisers. Billy, the anti social one, agreed to take me there. We have decided that we really need to own a single side band radio; it will be our next major purchase for the boat. But one of us needs to have a license…obviously it won’t be him.

It was a very interesting lunch. We had cheeseburgers cooked over a wood fire, accompanied by Bahamian mac and cheese. Then we sat down with about 50 other people who were all there for the same reason; they wanted to learn about operating a SSB/Ham radio. Two people led the talk, answered questions, and gave us useful information. I ended up purchasing the two books to study, and plan to take the test next Friday, right here in Georgetown, to get my technician’s class license, thereby bringing us one step closer to better communicating from the boat. I study for a couple of hours every day. The rules, etiquette, and general knowledge – I easily understand all that. The electrical knowledge is where I struggle, and Billy is helping me with that. So we will be hanging around this area at least until February 26, when I will take the test.

That being said let me tell you what it is like trying to phone home or email from this area! To use a phone, first you have to have a “Batelco” phone card. Then you have to find a phone that will accept the phone card. Of course, at the Batelco office where you purchase this phone card, there is no phone. You have to walk down the street to the fuel dock or up the street to the local bar and use that one, if it is working. Another option is to go to J and K Computers and use their phone, which is very reasonably priced at fifteen cents a minute. This was a great option for me, and I was able to touch base with two out of three of my kids. And then the Canadians began lining up for their turn. It turns out, this is the only phone that J and K have and everyone wants to use it. I had to give up the phone before calling child #3.

Internet access here is not easy either. Some of the restaurants offer free Wifi if you eat there. But they are few and far between, and you have to be hungry or at least thirsty and have time to hang out. And then, if you or someone else is using Skype, it slows everyone around you down. They get mad at you. You could buy an internet card that will give you access for 24 hours, right on your boat in certain areas. But connections speed is worse than dial up network. Our best discovery for internet access has been to sit outside the local supermarket with other cruisers, using the free wifi there. The owners of the market love the cruisers and are so accommodating. They have built a beautiful dinghy dock with free water, and offer the free Wifi . They know we will keep them in business.

So here I sit under a beach umbrella at a picnic table, with fellow cruisers, headsets pressed to our ears, trying to touch base with loved ones at home, pay bills, check bank accounts. We make small talk; about the weather, the speed of internet connection, where we are from, whether or not there is fuel at the fuel dock. Connection is very slow. Uploading pictures to Facebook takes forever, so I apologize for lack of photos. This is a whole different world from being in my own house with the convenience of fast connection and instant communication. I really miss GOOGLE…no time for that, so no instant answers to life’s peculiar questions! It’s funny…we, and others, come to the Bahamas to “get away from it all”. Yet cutting that communication cord is the hardest thing for all of us.

On the flip side of the coin I tell you this story. Billy and I walked along a very isolated beach in the Berry Islands, over 120 miles north from our current location. Scavenging the beach for treasures, we came across a message in a bottle. Inside was a note, carefully sealed inside an orange balloon along with a $5 bill. The person who sent the bottle included his address and wanted to hear from the finder; the $5 was intended for postage. We have written back to him. So here is another slow and not often reliable method of communication. But, wow, what a magical thing to stumble across a message in a bottle! Not only did we write to the sender (and mailed from Georgetown Post Office) I painted a watercolor map of the area showing him exactly where we found it. We kept the five bucks, aka the “big headed man.” Both Billy and I had fun composing our letter and felt blessed to have been the lucky finders of correspondence sent in such an ancient, time honored method!

As for there being no fuel at the fuel dock? Locals tell us that maybe on Sunday they will have diesel. A fellow cruiser asked us if they specified THIS Sunday, the Sunday of THIS month? We don’t know. What we do know is we love the Bahamas. And we have been stuck in worse places!

Nov. 10, 2004, Atlantic City, NJ

you might want to add, that at midnight last night, Billy’s autopilot failed. He had been making a run from shinnecock long island to cape may and was having an excellent ride and making excellent time, nice and warm in his semi-cockpit enclosure and spiffy bus heater. Then the autopilot died. (that is all i know) He was able to pull into Atlantic City and dropped anchor around 3 p.m. after resting and thawing out his hands he cruised down to cape may, where he will hopefully be able to get the thing fixed. i told him we needed a wind vane.

Nov. 06, 2004 – Green Harbor, MA

Billy Evans (floats) S/v Bonnie Christine, left Taylor Marine in Green Harbor on 11/6 at 2:00 in the afternoon. he is heading “south” again, although unfortunately he is solo this time due to commitments I have until Christmas. After Christmas, I will be joining up with him in Florida and we will spend the winter months cruising the Bahamas again.

I will try to keep you updated on his progress, if you care to hear it. He might be here for thanksgiving, depending on how far he gets in the next few weeks. and he will definitely be home for Christmas.

he will appreciate emails. he has his own address, finally, and hopefully has figured out how to use it. it is or you can send correspondence to me and I will forward it to him.

Linda Evans