Berry Islands, Bahamas

harbor2

The Berry Islands are just 70 miles east north-east of Bimini and 120 miles from Miami, but it seemed like a world away.  In part because we work in Bimini and Florida and we’re always on the fly, where Great Harbor Cay allowed total relaxation and exploration.  Our one hour flight landed us for a weekend getaway on a fairly unknown island.  A marina townhouse, boat and car rental awaited.  The locals were very accommodating, friendly and helpful from the time we landed in our single-engine plane.

harborbeach2Our first day driving the seven-mile island took us to secluded untouched beaches.  We got a glimpse of the cruise ships offshore.  We hung out at a local beach club for drinks and conversation.  I felt like wild boar or elephants should be roaming.  It was a bit of an expedition without the wildlife, although I did see dead snakes in the road when I ran the following morning.

An abandoned golf course, beach resort and pool littered the landscape.  Not necessarily in a bad way as time stood still, the remnants of a glamorous era forgotten.  I longed for the clubs and golfing, although I wasn’t into the sport.  A random dilapidated bridge, and a once happening lodge sat as a skeleton.

But the island had a vibe, a strong one of resilience.  It brought out the explorer in me, and shall I say a pirate in a good sense.

Saturday we explored by land while Sunday was reserved for sea.  We rented a boat, conveniently docked under our rental townhouse.  We set out with our iPad for navigation, Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwiches for lunch, and then quickly stopped by government dock to grab a six-pack of beer. I jumped off our small boat, passed a church holding Sunday service, and found my way to a local bar selling beer on Sunday.  “Wasted Time,” was its name and empty except for a few local young men skipping mass.

As I passed back I heard singing.  A man of a cloth preached and sang loud from the open door, it made me smile.  I loved Sunday’s I remembered from my past, my young church-going youth attending mass with my grandmother.

We ran the boat to the cruise ship islands, Coco and Stirrup Cay.  They are private but the large ships drew our attention.  A dolphin swam off our bow.  The water temped us with its colophon hue, but we knew the recent cold front left behind freezing water for our tropical blood.  We pulled into Coco Cay, hoping to dock for some shopping and a picnic stop.  We were turned away with a “What the hell,” look from a harbor master.  I think he hollered and gave a few signals that only my husband recognized.  We left the harbor and continued onward.

mermaid2cococay

Strirrup Cay seemed much more relaxed.  No customs agents monitoring, cruise ship employees paying attention, or anyone tending the docks.  We figured we’d circle around eating lunch, and then docked when we realized nobody noticed us.

I went onshore to use the restrooms where staff greeted me and asked, “How do you like the cruise so far?”

“Oh, it’s been lovely,” I fibbed.  “I’m glad the sun decided to come out.”    This I knew because it was cloudy until about an hour prior.

I decided to check out some temporary shops set up in the sand.  I peeked over at my husband on the boat, he seemed fine.  I bought a Stirrup Cay shirt as a souvenir. I passed by an empty taco bar, and found myself in line for cocktails.

“Anyone else for a strawberry daiquiri?”  The bartender called out.

I raised my hand at the back of the line, passing ten or so others waiting for different drinks, and was handed a daiquiri.

“Do you have your ship card?” He asked.

“No, I have cash.  My husband has my card,” I feigned again.

“Only ship cards.  Take the drink and bring your card when you come back.”  With his busy schedule he waved me on.

I would have ordered a Miami Vice, but considering I got a free drink on an island where I wasn’t supposed to be… I fully enjoyed it.

“Honey, I could have gotten you a taco or a drink.”  I teased my husband as we pulled away from the dock.

He was a good captain staying with our rental boat somewhat satisfied with his PB&J and beer, although he showed interest in a taco.

cococay3We passed back by the lifeguard on the rock, watching over tourists.  Perhaps one of the most boring jobs in the world. But as my husband pointed out, “He’s probably making sure no sharks swim from the deep water just beyond the rock into the shallow waters to feast on tourists.”

 

It was a fun stop, a brief adventure before continuing on for our own private cruise in the shallow waters around the islands.  Not quite fifty-shades of blue, but pretty close.  We left the Berry Islands the following day to head to Nassau. SUNSET BAHAMAS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A busy summer’s end: Audible Available

2017 irma.JPGI’ve been crazy busy since hurricane Irma hit Florida.  I participated in the largest evacuation in history as the east coast, west coast and most of our state was threatened with the strongest recorded wind, peaking at 180 mph.  Facing a monster storm on the east coast, we fled with two cats and a dog in our single engine piper and flew to Helen, Georgia.  Although air traffic was busy, the highways were gridlocked and many friends took all night to arrive at our safe house in the mountains.  The east coast was spared as the cone shifted to the west coast with the initial landfall after the keys, Marco Island.

carlAfter making the best out of our spur of the moment evacuation trip, I flew out of Atlanta for a pre-planned trip to California.  I visited familiar places and found some new favorites. I bonded with my father, got to know my grandparents through photos, clipped newspaper articles and we visited their graves.  We had road trips and explored Palm Springs, San Juan Capistrano, Temecula, and then after dropping off my dad I spent a few nights in Santa Monica. While hiking in Topanga Canyon,  I noticed the mountains  were extremely dry and the memorable waterfall and flowing river nonexistent.  A week later devastating fires broke out in many parts of California.  Overall a fun, rewarding trip, but the homeless population is out of control.  That’s a subject for a separate blog post.

A few weeks later I arrived back in south Florida to my intact home housing hurricane evacuees, one couple with roof damage and mold issues and another from Key West with no job to return to and hoping to make money fishing in Broward County.  I welcomed our displaced family and went about getting back to normal.  Whatever that meant with my travel schedule.  Five weeks later they still reside at our home.irma

Business trips and writing schedules continued and at the end my audiobook is complete. It’s for sale on audible.com and iTunes.  Overall, I’m very impressed with Emma Lysy and her performance of Breakfast In Bimini.  If  you are not an audible member you can join at this link below and receive a complementary copy for free.

http://www.audible.com/offers/30free?asin=B076BM4KSW

If you are a audible member then send me your information including email and I can send you a promo code for a free download to my audiobook in exchange for an honest review. You can reach me at http://www.sierramichaels.com or comment in the section below.

Happy reading and I hope you enjoy the audio version of Breakfast In Bimini.  I think you’re enjoy the adventure!

audible

 

 

July sale and audiobook production

BreakfastInBimini-AmazonI have two exciting promotions going on this summer.  For a limited time I’m offering my novel, Breakfast In Bimini,  for sale at half price. The perfect fun, bring on the sun and water beach read with a bit of a twist.  You can find the digital version and discount at:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/649848

 

I’m also producing an audiobook of Breakfast In Bimini to be released at summer’s end. This is a project I’ve been considering for the past year, but a bit uncertain of how to tackle it.  Originally, I wanted to read and record it myself at a local professional studio until I realized that maybe an experienced actress would do a better job.  I put up an audition request on ACX, the audiobook giant and I received several readings.  I found a match and I’ll have a sample by weeks end and the full book version shortly after.  I’d have to say, listening to the readings I felt impressed at times and uncertain at others. After all this is my creation and I have expectations about voice, inflections, and interpretation.  I have high standards, but I think she’ll do an excellent job.  I’ll let you know when it’s available on audible.com and other audiobook venues.

Any authors out there want to share their experience with producing their audiobook?  I’d love to hear about it in the comment section!

Hurricane Matthew’s Destruction in Andros

On October 5th, the eye of a category 4 hit the northwest tip of Andros, the largest island in the Bahamas.  For weeks, no news came from this part of the island and we couldn’t reach a friend who lived there.  When we finally heard from Diane, she had been living without power, no generator and everything she owned was destroyed.  She was thankful to be alive with her pup, but she sounded exhausted.

We arranged to fly to Andros with some basic relief items they couldn’t get on the island: Tools, giant garbage bags, tarps to cover leaking roofs, a generator, and three of us to help as needed with a positive attitude.  Basic supplies such as food, water and gas were being delivered from Nassau to the ports.  But moral, with such a loss and no electric were low.  We wanted to help as needed and assess the situation for the afternoon with a bigger plan on how to help.  Communication up until this point was limited with spotty cell service and no internet.

20161020_133040_resizedA 15 minute drive from a small airport called San Andros took us to the center of Nicolas Town. A cell phone tower built to withstand winds of 140 MPH was cut in half.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.

“Holy crap, this is bad.” I said.

Most of the homes looked fine from the outside, just tarps covering some roofs. We placed supplies we brought at a temporary house, a safe house where our friend withstood the hurricane.  The roof had a huge hole in it, and water damage although evident especially on the wooden floors seemed minor in comparison to the larger picture. The place was organized and clean thanks to Diane’s adopted kids.

20161020_120145_resizedWe set out to assess the damage at Knoll’s Landing, Diane’s quaint B&B on a lagoon.  A bulldozer paved the way through the trees and around dislocated boats as we followed to her unrecognizable resort.  Her remaining personal belongings scattered the landscape.

“I have nothing left of my 25 years here.” She confessed.

Together we felt two of her three buildings were structurally sound.

“Do you want to rebuild?” I asked.

“This is my home.”

“O.K. Let’s come up with a plan, and we will return for a few days to help.”

andros-planeMy husband and I returned to Florida, gathered more supplies and headed back to Andros. The power was still out, and the town seemed desperate but strong and connected to one another.  No help from the Bahamian Government or other relief organizations since the news didn’t cover their loss.  Haiti, Freeport and Nassau were also hit, so North Andros was forgotten.  Also, the political debate in the states controlled and dominated the media.

This time we stayed for two days, the most we could do with our schedule. We brought supplies from our previous visit list:  chain saws, flashlights, batteries, generator, roof tiles, more tarps, more garbage bags, and some food for dinner. Our plane loaded to the maximum capacity.

20161024_144120_resizedI helped clean up the yard. One section at a time, one day at a time, one large bag at a time. My husband and an adopted local kid secured her one surviving room with power via a generator, a makeshift water pump to provide fresh water, flood lights and enough security to live and feel andros-water-pumpsafe until power is restored, perhaps months from now.  At the bottom of this bungalow sat another cottage with a 1000 lb tree trunk in the center. Oh, the power of storm surge.  Only water could move this into her home.  It tore though the storm shutters, sliding doors and sat there among the debris.

“How am I going to move this tree stump?” Diane said.

“Make it a coffee table with a story.” I responded.

She has much work to do, and much-needed help and funding.  But I hope some day to see Knoll’s Landing up and running with the wonderful and welcoming host.  Diane has a go fund me page and every bit helps.

Check out and please share the link below:

 

 

Hurricane Matthew and South Florida

Most of the United States has four seasons, while south Florida has three. A dry pleasant winter and spring, a hot humid summer and a windy season when most are experiencing the turn between summer and fall. Currently, we are at the height of hurricane season. The recent threat of hurricane Matthew awakened many Floridians to our susceptibility of location, the sub-tropics.  We keep our eye on the weather channel daily and plan accordingly.  A disturbance off of Africa or in the Caribbean may soon become a category 1 to 5 in our neighborhood.

When Matthew formed we were in the Bahamas, keeping our eye on the storm and dismissing any real threat until it arrived at our door.  We boarded up and left the small Bahamian island known as Bimini, and flew 50 miles west to Fort Lauderdale.  Within a few days the tropical disturbance turned into a category 4 hurricane with winds of 140 miles per hour. Bimini and South Florida were in the cone of death, or more politely the cone of concern according to the local news channel.

hurricane-matthew-pic3As it tore though Haiti and the outer Bahamas we realized within 24 hours we were still in its direct path.

“Are we boarding up? Tomorrow should we bring out the shutters?” I asked as we analyzed the path of Matthew.

“Yes.”  My husband answered, “It doesn’t look good.”

hurricane_matthewA full day of preparations inside and outside as we gathered our crew for a safe haven during the hurricane.  It continued its path right towards Fort Lauderdale for a direct hit from the eye of the storm.  I started to doubt if we should stay for a cat 4, and they were forecasting it might increase to a category 5 by landfall.  I imagined our roof might blow off and our lives in danger in such high winds.  I was anxious.  I envisioned my small dog getting sucked out of a window and I made a mental note of where my snorkel, helmet and dive gear were located, just in case.

We watched constantly on the weather channel.  Then the hurricane jogged north as the cone of death followed its projected path.  Two hours out from a direct hit and it turned. Relief and cabin fever followed. We were lucky enough to have electric and movies available.  Our young helpers, twenty-somethings, entertained themselves by camping in an empty bedroom, playing board games by candle-light even though we never lost power.

The morning after seemed like a hurricane hangover.  No visible daylight through the hurricane shutters, no idea of time, exhaustion from the preparations, but we were spared from devastation. I’ll take that any day.  We again watched the weather channel.  The Space Coast and Jacksonville were now in the death cone.  Still a category 4, it was just cruising north, 30 miles off the coast of Florida.

hurricane-freeportMatthew came closest to Cape Canaveral, Jacksonville and eventually hit land just south of Charleston.  Many people were effected by this strong hurricane in Haiti, Cuba, Florida and the Bahamas.  Freeport, Nassau and Andros were the worst hit islands with no word yet from Andros.  I only hope for the best for our neighbors to the north and east.  I respect weather and I’ll never mess with mother nature, she is the ultimate one in charge.

Breakfast In Bimini book launch

book signingThis past weekend I published Breakfast in Bimini, and had a booth at the West Palm Beach Boat Show.  I ordered twenty paperbacks and designed bookmarks for distribution during the event. A few days prior to the show, I learned the books weren’t scheduled for delivery until the following week, and the printer didn’t get my final email approving the promo handouts.  To top off this wonderful day, my computer was hacked and a virus took over.  After many hours troubleshooting, I  reverted back to a previous version of Windows 8.

The night prior to the show opening, both the books and bookmarks arrived at my door. Luck switched in my favor.  I went strong for two days, selling some books and passing out plenty of info on my novel and website.  I received a mention on our local county station who also re-tweeted my book signing booth photo and links.  I met plenty of valuable contacts, but received dubious stares from others.  I always smiled and invited them to take my card.  The third day, I took a more relaxed approach, disappearing from my booth a bit more than desirable.

“You’re a bad exhibitor,”  the show promoter said at my lack of presence on the final day.

This promoter also happened to be my husband, so I took it with a grain of salt.

“I have a better understanding of what exhibitors go through,” I admitted.  “The ups and downs of a three-day show.  Slow at times, busy at others.  And dealing with people all day.  Some are super nice, some what to chat too long, and others just simply ignored me when I greeted them.”

BreakfastInBimini-AmazonMy book is now available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback and also on my website sierramichaels.com

Breakfast In Bimini shows up immediately during a search as the only book followed by products offered for breakfast in a bikini. These are mostly detox products.  I had to laugh.

 

Pirates, the Pope and the Crown

I find the colonization and trade patterns of the new world extremely fascinating.  I recently learned a few fun and interesting facts, somewhat generalizing some history below in the sake of making it simple.

spanish flagThe pope acting on behalf of God granted Spain the entire western hemisphere, with the exception of Brazil which he bequeathed to Portugal. In the late 15th Century, just a year after Columbus “discovered” America, one man increased Spain’s real estate 80 times it’s size.  The Spanish couldn’t possibly defend such a huge chunk of land so they ignored anything north of Virginia, allowing French and English  settlements along the east coast in North America.

Spain also had huge problems securing land and precious goods in the Caribbean. The English, French, Dutch, and Portuguese all wanted a piece of the action, each dominating  and conquering different islands throughout the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Jamaica, Haiti, and Nassau were all strategic and sought after seaports. Since the royal navies were engaged in what seems like constant warfare, they encouraged, financially supported, and legally backed privateers. Robbing enemies boosted the colonial economy and helped finance their war efforts.

So what’s the difference between a privateer and pirate?

privateersPrivateers were licensed to attack enemy ships for a percentage of the plunder. They were like private contractors who profited during times of war.  In periods of peace, they became desperate and turned towards piracy, capturing and looting any ship they could.  Pirates is a generic definition referring to anyone who uses the sea to commit theft.  So privateers are basically legal pirates.

spanish galleonBetween the 16th-18th century Spain was often a target of theft since they manipulated and controlled trade routes.  By the early 18th century, Spain had three highly armed treasure fleets with 30-90 vessels. Two of these fleets sailed every spring across the Atlantic from Seville, Spain to the new world.  The ships hulls  were filled with soldiers, weapons, wine and European goods needed in the American colonies.  The New Spain fleet sailed to Veracruz, Mexico and loaded gold, silver and goods from a third Manila Fleet bringing porcelain, silk and other products back from Asia. The Tierre Firme fleet headed to Cartagena, Columbia to collect millions in silver and other goods from various ports.  The two ships met up in Havana, Cuba and sailed together through the Straits of Florida back to Spain loaded with treasure.

treasure fleet 2Hurricanes were also a threat to these fleets, the worst occurring in 1622, 1715, 1733 and 1750.  The remains of the 1715 fleet is one of the most sought after among treasure hunters.  The fleet departed Havana on July 24th. The first five days were uneventful with the six day bringing large swells and early signs of a tropical storm.  By 2:00 am on July 31st, a hurricane hit at full force destroying the entire fleet with the exception of the Grifon, which is believed to have survived the devastation by defiantly staying one-half point farther northeast than the rest of the ships.  The fleet had no chance and were smashed against the Florida shoals, south of Cape Canaveral.  In total, over seven hundred lives were lost, eleven ships destroyed and more than 14 million pesos of registered treasure submerged.

Seamen also had to deal with diseases such as scurvy, the plague, malaria and typhus. Their ships often corroded from the salt air and it was difficult to get replacement parts. This is still true today, and living in the Bahamas a personal nuisance.  Our golf carts and boats are constantly breaking and corroding due to the harsh saline environment.

 

 

 

 

Breakfast in Bimini excerpt

end of world barDark in comparison to the bright sun outside, the rustic tavern displayed writing all over wood panel walls, underwear hanging above, and signed currency from many countries taped on a panel behind the bar. Names of boats and fishing teams, individuals with dates they visited, relationships broadcasted, love proclaimed.

“Interesting,” I mumbled.

My name’s in here,” Luke announced.

“My underwear’s on the ceiling,” Russ challenged. I looked up searching for the camouflage boxers I saw earlier on the trip. It was mostly ladies thongs, but boxers also hung from above like a flag revealing a conquest. My eyes shifted to one distinguished pair depicting a skull and crossbones with a patch over the eye, the typical Jolly Roger avatar faded and exposed on a single pair of boxers. I briefly thought of Jeff and his treasure hunting Davy Jones yacht, wondering if he’d left his mark in this bar. I continued scanning for Russ’s undies, my gaze landing on a pair representing the confederate flag. It was integrated with a rainbow of woman’s thongs. Blue, black, pick, multicolored, green and purple.

“That’s yours,” I pointed to the pair hanging in the distance. “The confederate flag, cowboy.”

“Damn, you’re good Kelly. But wrong. I wouldn’t give up a pair that nice.” He turned his stool in the opposite direction, pointing to a plain tan pair with grey scribbling’s. “Those are mine from 2001, during a wild fishing trip.”

“So you let people sign your ass while wearing them, or afterwards?” I asked, giggling at the thought of Russ running around the bar in his undies asking for autographs.

“On of course. A bunch of drunk girls in the bar signing my ass. Nothing on the front, I’m not that type of guy.”

I choked on my drink, spraying a mist of beer while laughing. “Oh, I could imagine.” Glancing at Luke, “So no undies on the ceiling for you, sweetie?”

Smirking, “No just a signature of my name and year, somewhere around here.” He searched the tavern, eyes scanning for a hint of recognition and then handing me a black sharpie, one of many sitting atop the bar. “Make your mark,” he said pragmatically.

Eagerly grabbing the sharpie and searching for an empty section to claim as my own, I noticed fainter scratching’s were written over with darker, fresher markings. I avoided busy walls and found a corner behind a speaker and wrote, Kelly and Luke, Breakfast in Bimini, 2011. Satisfied with my scribbling’s, I joined the two men sitting on bar stools, gulping a slightly stronger Kalik Gold.

“Ok, now the undies,” Russ blurted out, wickedly grinning.

“And I can do a shot from your belly button,” Luke added with an equally sinful grin. “It’s tradition in this bar.”

“Oh, I don’t think so.” I addressed both of them with a smiling gaze. “But I’d have to say, this place definitely has character.”

compleat angler 1“You might change your mind after a few of these,” Luke said, handing me a Kalik Gold to go. Walking the streets of Bimini with a drink in hand is also tradition, ambling to our next stop, lunch at the Big Game Club. During our short walk to the restaurant we sauntered past some ruins stopping for a moment of nostalgia. Luke and Russ both filled me in on the colorful history the Compleat Angler. Ernest Hemingway was perhaps the most notable resident that slept, drank, and wrote at the Angler, but so did Jimmy Buffett, presidential hopeful Gary Hart got caught messing around at the bar and hotel, Matt Damon was spotted there and the less famous Russ and Luke with their past debauchery. Built in the 1930’s it was once the staging area for rum-runners during the prohibition. Prior to its fiery destruction just five years ago, it housed a small yet unique Hemingway museum and it was full of fishing pictures from every decade since the thirty’s. On any given weekend the bar was packed with drunken tourists and locals listening to live music from Stevie S while socializing, sometimes getting downright crazy. The two compared their most memorable stories, with passionate sinful laughs. I longed to have the same memory of the Compleat Angler. Now only a brick fireplace stood in the center of boulders outlining the three rooms and an outside patio. An A-frame wooden sign over a stone archway read The Compleat Angler, a reminder of its humble yet ornate vibrant past.

“How did it burn down and do you think they’ll rebuild it?” I asked.

The two chortled in unison as we continued strolling to the Big Game Club. “The fire was questionable, the owner was the only one who died. All the Hemingway memorabilia was destroyed. Lots of gossip about foul play, but no arrest were made.”

“If it was that popular, will they rebuild?”

Luke took a swig from his beer as we continued along King’s Road. “It’s the Bahamas, nothing much gets done around here.”

 

Breakfast in Bimini. Chapter 14 excerpt

crab2I silently passed by Luke engrossed in the news, he knew my routine.  I sauntered to a dirt road and walked while building up my energy and determination leading into a jog.  I really enjoyed walking and I could probably do it all day, but a quick run was so much more efficient. Lavender morning glories lined the path, shining upward to greet the sun.  Dense scrub brush added a jungle-like feel to the tropical island.  Light peeked through the tall thin pine trees creating an irregular pattern of shadows on the sandy trail. Buzzing crickets screamed through the trees at certain points and then complete silence. The only other noticeable sign of life was a few comical sideways moving land crabs.  They’d raise a large claw in the air, attempting to intimidate and challenge a fight. All the while doing the horizontal tango into the road then back to the bush, proudly displaying an obscenely sizable claw.  On a few occasions I had to stop and play with an arrogant little fellow, almost taunting him.  I’d never hurt a creature but it was sure fun revealing my armor, my sheer size 121 pounds heavier than its claw. And I too could do the tango.  Needless to say, I always won.

I stopped at the beach club to stretch, admiring the three-sided ocean view reflecting several shades of blue and green.  Translucent celeron and jade in the bimini watershallower waters, deep midnight to polar blue in the distance and a lighter sky blue in the forefront.  A color I referred to as Bimini blue given its prominence in front of Bimini Sands and most of the island.  Perhaps the most beautiful luminous water I’ve ever seen.  The water contrasted against a dilapidated rusting white fence and pink cement seawall with columns lining a small inlet allowing access to boating canals.  Cement debris littered a beach rock jetty.  Remnants from the hotel that once existed here, from what Luke told me last night.  A hurricane wiped out the inn, a tsunami size wave hit the two-story hotel taking it out into the ocean.  The set-back corner position of the beach club left it undamaged. Next to me, a solid row of sun-drenched green bushes separated the debris from the road.  Too lush and manicured to be native plants.  In the beach club lawn Bermuda grass held indigenous sea-grape trees fashioned into round balls with heart-shaped leaves, strategically placed sunflowers, fuchsia Bougainvillea, and a surf board placed for ornamentation.

I was only fifteen minutes into my run and already drenched in sweat. I used my right hand, index finger side leading, to propel the sweat off my face like a windshield wiper during a downpour.  A motion I continued throughout my run.

shark lab picI jogged past a sign reading, Bimini Biological Field Station.  Better known as the shark lab, it’s an international research facility designated to studying shark behavior and population.  I made a mental note to visit the shark lab during our brief visit in Bimini.  Several students were hanging clothes in the front yard, old-fashioned washing and drying of clothes I concluded.  Other students were arranging casting nets and two rather large dogs leashed to a pole barked and howled as I ran by.

South Bimini was still quiet, although a few locals passed on golf carts with a quick flip of the hand as a friendly wave.  Not that anyone was going to play golf, a golf course doesn’t exist on the island.  It’s the preferred transportation vehicle which given the island’s small size and moderate climate, it’s the perfect way to get around. Not only were cars missing, except the scattered few, but also street signs, horns honking, background interstate noise, asphalt, squirrels, big lush trees, cats sitting on porches, lawn art and any sort of diverse built skyline.

On another side canal I jogged past private vacation homes belonging mostly to Americans, especially from Florida only fifty miles to the west.  In the sandy yard of a lime green house, handmade wooden signs nailed to a dock piling and pointing to Miami, a nude beach, Jamaica, Cozumel and Cuba.  I smelled wood burning, reminding me of Africa and the exotic experiences I had in Benin, Kenya and Tanzania many years ago. The ubiquitous charred wood aroma of the continent I loved the most, longing to live there in my youth. Searching for the source of the scent I discovered a tree burning in the sand surrounded by scrub brush, a controlled burn I recognized.

I found relief in a small marina pool, diving in and exhaling victory at the end of my painfully heated run.  Hot yoga was easy compared to jogging in Bimini during the summer with a humid hurricane approaching.  The air-conditioned condo seemed like an igloo afterwards, so I quickly hit the shower.

Breakfast in Bimini, Chapter 8 excerpt

staniel cayWalking off, I scouted the docks for Luke.  He was talking to a few guys near the fish cleaning station.  Nick was at the opposite end checking out a large European yacht I recognized as an Azimut, from three distinct windows on the side and its aerodynamic design.  One of the few boats I could spot and identify, it was also my dream boat.  This one was curiously named Davy Jones. My mind raced to where I’d heard that name.  One of the band members names in The Monkees, I knew from my youth growing up watching and listening to the pop group, but also from somewhere else.  I shook off the mystery name and strolled over to Luke gabbing at the fish station.  Nurse sharks swarmed below in a feeding frenzy for fish scraps, attacking like Komodo Dragons on raw meat.  They didn’t look so peaceful or harmless now.nurse sharks

Luke noticed me standing by his side.  “Hey, sweetie.”  He turned to one of the guys filleting fish, “This is my girlfriend Kelly.”

The tall, thin, shirtless stranger greeted me with a nod, “Nice to meet you.” He glanced at me then the fish he was cutting.  “I’d shake your hand, but they’re a bit bloody right now.”  Two large fish were splayed on the filet table and a bucket full of fresh meat lay between his feet.  He was wearing plastic blue fishing waders. “I’m Paul, and this is my buddy Randy.”  I smiled at the younger, less messy fisherman.  His fish scraps seamlessly fell from the table into the shark infested water.  He was barefoot wearing only a bathing suit and a knife attached to his calf.

“Dolphin?”  I asked, with my newfound yet limited fishing lingo.

“Yes Ma’am,” Paul answered.  “Got a few at sunrise, just out yonder.”

Luke chimed in, “They’re from Fort Lauderdale.”

“Neighbors,” I offered, peering into the sea for another glimpse of the bloodbath.  Although the accent was a bit country-strong for southern Florida.  My eyes drifted toward Luke, “I’m going poolside until we leave on the golf cart.”

“We’re leaving in forty-three minutes.”  Where does he get these numbers?  Not forty or forty-five.  So random.

Jamie, the blonde and the adorable dog, Yoda, were all sunbathing at the small pool. “What are you drinking?” I called out.

“Pina Colada,” Jamie responded.

I returned with two Pina Coladas and a small bowl of ice water for the dog.  “I brought some water for Yoda, if you don’t mind?” I asked, placing the bowl on the ground.

“Ahh, thanks.  I’ve been giving her ice cubs from my drink and she swims in the pool.”

“She’s such a cutie.”  I sat in the lounge chair between Jamie engulfed in a magazine and the blonde. “And a good traveler?” I added with a quick sip from my sweet cocktail.

She beamed a new motherly glow.  “Yes, I’ve only had her for about nine months.  But she goes everywhere with me.”

“Where do you call home?”

“North Carolina is home, but we’ve been traveling for the past few years on our boat.” She paused.  “I’m Jenny.  I’m here with my husband, it’s our fifth anniversary.”

“Congrats on five years.  I’m Kelly.”  I raised my drink to her unknown cocktail.  She lit a cigarette and I borrowed one.

“You smoke? I thought I saw you running.”

“Yes. I do both.” I mumbled.

She giggled with a knowing uninhibited grin. “No worries.”

I glanced at Jamie still absorbed in her magazine.  Yoda was under her lounge chair, resting in the shade.  “So you’re sailing around the Bahamas?” I probed for conversation.

“Yeah.”  She pointed to the marina.  “Our boat is docked over there for the next week.  It’s called Davy Jones.

My eyes widened through my sunglasses.  I’d assumed she was on one of the many sailboats.  “An Azimut.  My favorite boat.”  I took a sip, “And is your husband Davy?”

She giggled.  “No, it’s Jeff Johnson.  Davy Jones is a reference to shipwrecks at the bottom of the sea.”  She extinguished her cigarette into a close-by empty glass.  “Most people don’t get it, but he’s a treasure hunter looking for Spanish shipwrecks, mostly in the Bahamas.”  She clarified.  “He does web design and hosting for a living, but his passion is treasure hunting.”

It clicked.  That’s how I know the name Davy Jones.  It’s an idiom for the bottom of the sea.  Davy Jones’ Locker, or death to sailors. I started to fluster, my mind spinning through everything that had happened during our trip; boat disasters, pirates, my idol, portals, and nightmares.  Sensing my fear, Yoda jumped on my lap.  Jamie lowered her sunglasses and whispered through her teeth, “I caught part of the conversation, and I can see beads of sweat forming all over you, and you’re as pale as a ghost.  Breathe. Just breathe.  This has nothing to do with your dreams.”

“The symbol of death was just dropped on my feet,” I teeth-whispered back. “And the sweat’s from the hot sun.”

She smiled thinly toward me then to Jenny who was unaware of any conflict.  Jamie quietly nudged me and then turned towards our newfound friend, “We are going to change for our island exploration.   See you later this afternoon, I hope.”

“I think Yoda likes you Kelly,” she uttered.

“And such a cute name, how did you pick it?” I asked, hoping it wasn’t some omen.

“Oh, we’re Star Wars fans.”

I calmed at the response.  Great, the Star Wars Jedi master meets the sea devil. Following Jamie to the cottage, I imagined the dog and horned demon dueling it out with lightsabors to save the galaxy.  Somehow in my mind’s eye, the adorable pup won the battle before I even reached the doorstep.

Nick and Luke were waiting, ready to sightsee, “Has it been forty-three minutes?” I called out to Luke.

“Forty-four,” he taunted

We perambulated to the golf cart with no plans but to be at the airport around 3:00, or whenever we saw the Caravan fly overhead.  I wanted to stop by a local grocery store because I liked checking out foreign food, and Jamie sought boutiques, if we happened to pass one.  We were all in our bathing suits with cover-ups.  Jamie and I on the back of the four-seater with the boys navigating in the front.  Crossing the rickety bridge over Bonefish Creek, Luke in the driver’s seat, decided to stop and admire the fleeting fish.  A Piper Aztec buzzed us. “Not a Caravan,” Luke announced.

A small grocery store sat across from the creek.  “Can we check that store out,” I pointed to coral shack.

Luke pulled in front and Jamie and I jumped off the cart. I perused the can goods and cereal boxes.  Plenty of beans, rice, oatmeal and a few boxes of Captain Crunch and Cheerios.  The elderly Bahamian lady watched me like a bird stocking its prey.  “My God. You can’t come in here without a shirt,” she chided.

“Oh, I didn’t know.  Sorry,” I murmured.

Exiting the shack I glanced at Jamie wearing a cover-up.  She wasn’t far behind carrying four opened Kalik lights.  “I don’t think she liked your cleavage,” she kidded.  “What are you like a 36D?”

“C,” I corrected.  “It’s the islands.  Who knew?”

“Hey Kelly, did you tell Luke about the Davy Jones boat?”

“I met the owner, Jeff.” Nick said. “Nice guy.”

“Well we met his wife and dog at the pool.  Jeff’s a treasure hunter.  That along with the Davy Jones Locker euphemism leads me to believe my idol is still at work.  Maybe it wants to return to the bottom of the sea.”

The threesome snickered with Luke going into a lingering belly laugh.  “I think maybe the owner watches too much Sponge Bob,” Luke managed to cackle.

I blinked at the three, raising my lips slightly.  “Do you know what Davy Jones means, sweetie?”

His laugh teetered to a perpetual grin.  “Yes.  Sponge Bob had a locker at the bottom of the ocean that he kept some socks in.”  He went to a full belly laugh again and stopped the cart.

Nick spoke through his smile.  “I don’t know a thing about Sponge Bob, but in pirate lore it’s the devil of the sea and it’s meant to cause fear among seamen.  It’s mentioned in Moby Dick and Pirates of the Caribbean.”  He glanced back at me.  “But in reality, it’s just a name some guy picked for his boat.  Besides he looks harmless.  You should show him your idol.”

I shrugged.  “He’s still a treasure hunter.”

“And you’re an archaeologist.  You two should have a lot in common.  I’ll introduce you two tonight,” he concluded.