Northern Bahamas: December 23 - 31, 2006

Faithful readers have maybe been staying awake wondering if we got out of Florida, and if so, out of which departure point.  Fluff up your pillows, your wait is over.  We departed from Lake Worth on 12/23/06, leaving about 10:45 am.   That was earlier than we had planned, but we were impatient.   Our plan had been to cruise all the way to Great Harbour Cay Marina, in the northern Berry Islands, a distance that would require cruising through the afternoon and into the night, arriving at the Berry Islands late enough in the next morning to be able to navigate the final leg over the relatively shallow bank.  That was the plan, but calculations suggested a departure time of 12:00 noon.  So why did we leave at 10:45?  Plain and simple impatience.   What was the result?  Normal cruising speeds would have seen us arriving too early, even though the first part of the trip was relatively "lumpy", and hence slower than usual.  So we just slowed down, and arrived at 9:00 am, to a relatively deserted Great Harbour Cay Marina.   By the way, cruising at night is interesting.   The radar was cluttered with images of ships passing in the night, and the cruise ships were festively (and intensely) lighted as they passed.

Faithful readers will remember that we spent some time here last year.  The marina itself is getting a bit run down, but the location is splendid.   The locals are very friendly, and the marina lies in a very protected hurricane hole.  We ate at a couple of the local eateries, met some of the locals, and were in fact invited to a housewarming at noon on the very morning that a weather window finally presented itself.  So we missed the housewarming, but departed for points south on 12/27.   But first we had to make our way up and around the northern portion of the islands, against the strong north winds.   Kinda lumpy, but our boat was not unhappy with the seas.  We left intending to put in at Frazier Hog Cay, but half way down the east side of the Berry Islands, Barb the navigator pointed out that if we altered course anytime soon, we would only be adding another 15 or so nautical miles if instead we went directly to Nassau.  The wind was "blowing stink", but at our stern and so we did indeed change course slightly, and arrived at Nassau Yacht Haven just in time to get tucked in before the staff disappeared for the night.

As he rushed off, the dockmaster mentioned that the Junkanoo celebration (scheduled for Boxing Day) had been postponed because of inclement weather, and was rescheduled for that very night.   What is Junkanoo?  Let me shamelessly quote from a guide book by Pavlidis:

"Junkanoo was introduced to the American colonies by slaves from Africa's western coast.   From there it quickly spread to Jamaica and The Bahamas.  ... Junkanoo developed as a celebration during the pre-emancipation days when slaves were allowed a special Christmas holiday.  Not wanting to waste their holiday, they took to beginning their celebration well before dawn.  It is said that the wild costumes, masks and makeup were used by the slaves as a way to disguise themselves while exacting revenge upon masters and settling grudges with fellow slaves. ... The costumes create a tremendous visual effect and are painstakingly manufactured by hand.  ... Competition among the various groups is fierce and members are very secretive about their upcoming productions."

Dan and Anne, aboard Borrowed Horse, also arrived that afternoon, and we later paired with them and walked to the downtown section of Nassau to observe the festivities.

In the Bahamas, the largest Junkanoo is at Nassau on Boxing Day and New Years Day.   Locals at the event provided some of the details:  the parade occurs on a circular route along narrow barricaded streets, with around a half-dozen teams competing.   Some of the larger teams have up to a thousand members.  The parade we attended lasted all night long, from shortly after 8 pm until around 6 am the following morning, with each team traversing the route two times, and with sizable gaps between the teams.  The teams compete for awards in such areas as best music, best dancing, best costumes, etc.  There are two separate categories of teams, with separate awards for each.  There is also an overall "best in the parade" award.   Each year each team chooses a theme and spends 11 months creating the costumes and floats consistent with that theme.

We learned that the two most popular teams are the Saxons and the Valley Boys.   As luck would have it, we saw both as well as what we assume was a category 'B' team, the Colours.   The theme for the Saxons was religious.   The theme for the Valley Boys was mythical warriors.   The theme for the Colours was, believe it or not, chickens.  We were on Bay Street, right in the front against a barrier, and so we had excellent position.   So much so, that Chuck had to duck on several occasions to avoid being struck by a passing costume.   After three teams, we had had enough, so we pushed through the crowd and walked the two miles back to our marina.   We turned on the TV when we arrived back at the boat around midnight, and discovered that the local station was broadcasting all night coverage of the celebration.   We learned from the TV that there were at least 65 judges for the event, and that each team was given 80 minutes to complete one traversal, lest they be penalized 100 points.   Also learned that other themes this year were Bahamian politics, and Treasures of Arabia.

Later, in a conversation at a local marine hostelry, Chuck learned that the whole thing will happen again on New Years Day.   He knew they had another parade, but was shocked to learn that the New Years Day parade was an "all new" contest, with the same teams competing, but with all new themes and all new costumes and floats.  The New Years parade will begin at 1 AM and go on into the night.   Again: two full laps, large large teams, and gaps between teams.  Incredible.   We were absolutely stunned at the amount of work that must go into the Boxing Day parade.  It is almost inconceivable that all of that effort was actually replicated for a second parade held not a week later.   If it wasn't obvious before -- and it really was -- it is certainly obvious now as to why they must start preparing for the next season's parades as early as February.

Enjoying lunch at the Beach Club in Great Harbour - the Berry Islands

Barb riding bike to Beach Club

Sign in the Berrys

Chuck ready to do some cleaning on transom

Abandoned Club House in northern Berry Islands

Chuck on club house overpass

View from club house overpass

From backside

Club house bar

Barb exploring club house


Commercial pier west of bridge out from Paradise Island near Nassau

One of many shops in local market under the bridge

View of Atlantis from the bridge

Atlantis Marina from the resort


Fountain at entrance to resort

Chuck at Atlantis Aquarium

Checker players under the bridge

The harbour is not very clean

Fishing boat in local anchorage in Nassau





Quiet moment after the Atlantis expedition


Junkanoo Photos

Anne and Dan w/ Chuck at parade site.

Saxons (with religious theme)

Colours group (with "chicken" theme)

Valley Boys (with mythical warriors theme)

Note the stilts this gentleman is using!

Note the "smoke" coming from the nostrils of this dragon on a Valley float