“Where do you cook?” “How often do you wash?” “How do you get to land?” “What is the toilet like?!”
All excellent questions from friends and family, intrigued by how ordinary life stuff gets done when you live on a boat. And in case anyone didn’t know, we don’t have an actual house at the moment, so this is it. (Apart from when I take my washing back to Mum’s house 3 times a year but we’ll skip over that bit…)
After we left the sea turtles of Little Harbour, Long Island we sailed north to about half way up this long thin strip of land and into the wide roomy bay of Clarence Town.
Little Harbour was perfect in its isolation, but Clarence Town with its lights at night, buildings, a marina and actual other boats was a welcome taste of civilisation. We tucked ourselves in at the top corner for shelter and prepared to catch up on some domestic jobs.
Every place we arrive we start from scratch – and that includes where to buy food; get some laundry done; buy diesel and petrol; top up the phone cards; buy some boat widgets from a chandlers and get rid of the rubbish!
Sadly, there is no recycling on any island we have been to so far. It still makes me feel very queasy putting a glass jar, a tin can and a plastic bottle into the kitchen bin but it is all you can do.
And then the black sacks go into the big lockers in the hull of the boat, so that they can ferment in the heat for a few weeks until we can get somewhere with big bins. One of L’s best innovations was putting an air vent into that locker…jeez…
What we have learned about food shopping is that you just buy as much as you can carry when you see it, because you don’t know when you will see it again.
Many of these less developed Bahamian Outer Islands have very small local shops, more akin to garden sheds. The owner – who usually lives next door – will open up for you to browse the bags of cornmeal, tinned beans, shower curtains, custard creams, Doritos and long life milk. There doesn’t seem to be any stock of local fruit or veg and my vision of living on local paw paw and mangos seems ridiculous now.
Many people do have fruit trees, bananas and vegetables in their gardens – although getting a good crop depends on collecting bat poo fertiliser from caves on Mayaguana Island for example, so the younger generation are not as keen to get involved as you might imagine. There is also the salt contaminated soil from hurricanes in 2015 to contend with.
Pretty much everything else arrives on weekly cargo ships that tour the islands, unless they are delayed by bad weather. We have adapted our expectations quite well though.
One week we ate ALOT of lovely, small Florida oranges, the next week it was cucumbers.
We are blessed with plenty of “free water” from our solar/wind powered reverse osmosis watermaker – which L fitted into a cupboard, like some kind of crazy science experiment – so we have hot showers on board!
And yes, our boat toilets are bearable but hard work. The amounts of hand pumping required surely deserve an entry on a fitness app.
Living in less clothes notwithstanding, hand washing in a bucket is a mighty chore so apart from a few smaller things it generally piles up till we can bag it all up, hire a car and find a launderette.
Collecting our warm folded clothes and sheets makes me very happy indeed.
When we do hire a car it is a military exercise to get everything done – fill the propane tank for the cooker, do a big food shop, find a phone shop for a local SIM card, a chandlers for a few bits of hardware, do some exploring and then out for lunch too if all goes well.
Everything comes to and fro’ from the boat in our dinghy with outboard, so protecting clean dry laundry and boxes of Quaker oats from a seawater soaking is pretty important! In Clarence Town where we belatedly realised we were on the choppy side of the island and that all the clever people were moored in the smooth, calm waters on the other side.
Still – they probably don’t get 7 foot sharks in the marina on their side of the island…