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Cruising Journals - Pam Wall

Chapter 2 - First Landfall

"Hey, guys, wake up! You aren't going to believe this place." All of us had been sound asleep as if drugged by the previous night's landfall. It wasn't easy for me to shake off that sleep and peek out the forward hatch at first light. I had been in the deep wonderful slumber that you have once you are securely anchored after a long passage. There is really nothing like that first night with no watches to keep, and to know you have made it to your destination.

shimmering with the light of the reflected sun. Ahead of us lay the island with its intense white beach lined by dark green casaurina trees. The light of the early morning sun filtered through the trees and bathed us in an eerie sort of filtered gold. The inviting smell of the land beckoned us ashore. Spurred into action by the anticipation of this first landfall, we hurriedly ate breakfast, launched the inflatable dingy, got the outboard motor installed, grabbed the flip flops, camera, towels, passports, ship's papers, and sunglasses.

Our landing was a bit embarrassing. The surge along the beach and near the town landing was a little more than expected. The small breaking waves made beaching the dinghy difficult. We were swirled around in the shallow water, and the outboard gave us no control as it ground to a halt when it, too, hit the sand. There were a few tense moments when the surf broke over the side of the boat and soaked Sammy and Jamie. Andy had to leap into the water, grab hold of the dinghy to control it, and pull the boat up onto the beach away from the breaking water.

Funny how we all felt dizzy and stumbled on the lurching land. This new sensation of being "land sick" would be part of our lives with every landfall.

We took a long walk up the sleepy single lane unpaved road. Not much traffic here, only one decrepit truck passed us. The island is flat and the road hard packed sand and ground up coral. There was all about us that wonderful smell of wet sand freshened from a quickly passing squall, the breakfasts being prepared in the tiny homes, and that particular scent, unique to the Bahamas, of slowly decaying vegetation. A solitary mocking bird stood on a rock and warbled its haunting call. I often wonder how the world could survive without the gorgeous music of the mockingbird!

The quiet road took us to the abandoned Riding Rock Inn. This tiny resort has a very small manmade harbor. It all looked so sad and deserted. Andy and I remembered it from the time many years ago when we found refuge here from a nor'wester. Back then it was a popular diving resort and a lovely place to be weathered-in. Now the buildings were all boarded up, and the harbor sheltered only a few half sunk fishing boats.

Back in the settlement we tried to find someone who could check us into the Bahamas. This turned out to be a futile search, and no one seemed to care, least of all the Chief of Police. Little did we know how important this seemingly small omission would be. But innocently we accepted this and with that chore out of the way, the next most important thing was to follow the scent of fresh baked bread!

We found a small, brightly colored house, adorned by the painted sign, "Fresh Bread." Inside were two small tables, and a counter on which stood a wheelof greasy warm cheese, some cans of sardines, a row of old rusty Sweetened Condensed Milk cans, a little rice, sugar, and six huge steaming hot loaves of Bahama bread! A large friendly lady stood up from her chair and smiled at us. We gratefully paid for the bread and a slice of the gooey cheese, and asked her if she had made the bread. She looked around the room, and laughed, "No one else in here to make it!" As we thanked her for the wonderful bread, we rushed out the door of the hot little room, grateful for the cool fresh air of the morning. Another rule for the Kandarik crew, always buy two loaves of bread, one to be saved for the boat, and one to be consumed on the way back. There is no way we could have resisted eating that fragrant fresh loaf, and before it had even cooled down, it was gone!

After a tour of the town, we were all exhausted. On the way back to the dinghy we passed the main square. Here, under the one big Flamboyant tree with it's bright red blossoms, was a lady who had spread out her homemade straw hats. She motioned the children over; fatigue forgotten, Sammy and Jamie tried on each and every hat. What a terrible decision to make! Which hat to buy and which hats to leave behind. Finally after many "Yes, I like this one!" "No, I think this is the one for me." "Oh, let me try that on one!" "Jamie, I want the one you have." Finally the lucky hats were agreed upon, and amidst laughs and hugs we left the only straw market in San Salvador behind, waving good-bye as we made our way to the dinghy. We hadn't gone very far, when the lady in the straw market came running after us, heaving and panting. She turned me around and placed a beaded necklace around my neck. "Honey, the sweet little Mama should have something that I made too!" She would take no money for this string of brightly colored seeds, and I knew we both understood one another, mother to mother.

The scene had changed once again as the sun began its dip to the west. Now the turquoise water had a brilliance to it that was contrasted by the royal blue of the deep water beyond the anchorage. The azure sky and the white clouds, the shallow sand rolling out to the deep sea, all this made Kandarik look like she was floating in some intensely colored painting. Kandarik, an Australian name, is the mythological kangaroo who taught the Aborigines how to dance. And dancing she was, on a stage of glimmering sunshine, translucent aquamarine, and cobalt blue.

Even though it was early afternoon, we all fell asleep after the wonderful morning ashore. As I lay in my bunk thinking about the day, I could not help but smile at the thought of Sammy and Jamie and how they acted as though this new life was the only one they had ever known. Now when I look back, that first landfall was to set a precedent for many more to come. We would never loose that thrill of a seeing a new place for the first time. We would always be amazed by our dizziness those first few hours on shore. How could we ever buy just one loaf of bread and expect it to be enough? And straw markets around the world, take heart, Sammy and Jamie were on their way!

It wasn't until after dark that Andy and I came on deck. We had all been sleeping soundly. Not wanting to wake up the children, we quietly hoisted sail and slipped out of the lee of the island. That same nearly full moon illuminated the sand beneath us like a brightly lit highway. As the wind freshened, we reefed the main and reduced the headsail to a small staysail. Close reaching to the south we were on our way to Crooked Island. Our children, cozy below deck, were secured in their bunks by high lee cloths. Kandarik danced her way to the south, loving the strong wind and moon tipped wave tops.

By early morning we could see Bird Light. The wind was quite strong, nearly 25 knots, and as we thrashed our way up into the anchorage, Sammy and Jamie popped up on deck. "Where are we?" they said in unison. This, too, was the first of many occasions when they would go to sleep in one port and miraculously wake up in some new place. "Where are we?" still brings to mind the total innocence the children had as they awoke, and like magic, found they were in some new and unfamiliar harbor. Our life had now become an adventure of discovery

Pam Wall - Expert Sailor

Pam Wall

Outfitting Manager, West Marine Ft. Lauderdale

  • A lifelong sailor, Pam and her husband have been cruising together for over 36 years!