Monday, February 4, 2008

First Friday at Farmers

January 29-February 3, Black Point to Little Farmers Cay
Sandwiched between two visits to Black Point Settlement, we attended the 5F—First Friday in February at Farmers Festival. This is billed as one of two major annual events in the Exumas. The celebration spills over into Saturday and is kicked off with pomp and circumstance. Regional government officials offer effusive speeches. The police chief of the Exumas, dapper in military uniform and diamond-crusted Rolex, sternly warns that lawful custody will certainly follow unlawful activity. Uniformed schoolchildren recite the pledge and sing the national anthem and the Farmers Cay song. The national TV station in Nassau even sends a team to cover the story.

For an island with a total population of 60, this is great marketing! Boats loaded with Exumians from neighboring islands fill every available dock. Planes land at the airstrip bringing native sons back from George Town and Nassau. And cruisers are not only invited to attend, they’re pressed into service to help run the festival.

The main attraction is a sailing regatta: races for fame and honor between Bahamian wooden sloops. On the second day, Keith volunteers as crew on one of the boats. The other three Bahamian sailors on Golden Girl are leery. Sailing experience on a boat like ours doesn’t necessarily translate to one like theirs (just ask the crew of non-Bahamian cruisers that try racing one of the sloops on their own). His duties, in addition to normal tasks like raising the anchor and helping trim the sheet, include riding the “prys,” the boards that are pushed out from one side to the other on each tack. The human ballast balances way out on the boards, adjusting position with any gusts, to keep the boat as level as possible.

Golden Girl runs into hard luck. First, she goes aground and finishes eighth in her race. On the next outing, a T-bone collision opens a gaping hole in her side, but she manages to place fifth among fifteen contenders. His crewmates declare Keith a natural—no great surprise to those of us who know him!

We closed out the festival at West Beach with the Bahamian crowd. The very entertaining conch man, Carsol, made two preparations of conch I had never tried before. Scorched conch is scored and topped with “sour and spice,” or lime and Scotch bonnet peppers, guaranteed to set your lips on fire. Grilled conch is diced and pounded, then cooked in foil with green pepper, onion, and an abundance of butter-flavored Crisco; very tasty if not healthful!

Speaking of health, and in keeping with the alliteration theme, we could talk about positive progress, a remarkable recovery, or feeling in fighting form. The best description is that it's a generous gift of God’s great goodness and grace. Much sooner than I imagined, I’m able to breathe deeply and do almost everything I need to do…still carefully…but with very minimal pain. Thank you so much for your prayers!

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