Sometimes everything just seems to be…well, weird. Tonight that is how it feels and sounds in Nassau harbour…just plain weird. There is an almost eerie silence. None of the usual competition of sound waves all simultaneously vying to rattle your eardrums. No singing of the wind in the rigging, or waves slapping the hulls from passing boat traffic. No engine noise or generators, or even the annoying gunning of car and motorcycle engines or the sirens that never seem to stop. If I closed my eyes I could easily imagine I was in a quiet isolated bay at the end of the world. That is definitely not the norm for this usually very busy harbour.
Everywhere there are signs hanging in shop doorways, “closed”.
The CIBC bank was open, but the ATM machines were not accepting foreign bank cards. Plus, they would only dispense Bahamian currency. The branch manager said she would exchange up to $300 Bahamian for US dollars, but only if I could find an ATM machine that was working. However, no more than $300 as they were getting low on US cash. Without the daily inflow of USD from the cruise ships, I guess they were not getting the typical volumes she needed to restrict conversions. After tracking down several ATM’s, I finally found one at the Esso On the Run gas station that was still working. Relieved to have recharged some cash reserves, I returned to the CIBC where the manager exchanged it for no fee. Although nothing was said about changes and the break down of normally operating services…the bell rang loud and clear. Coronavirus is having a big impact on Nassau.
The Fresh Market grocery store was open, but with very reduced hours and not the usual abundance of fresh produce. There was still plenty there, but it was beginning to get thin. Some shelves were bare, like the “hand sanitizer” section. The Nassau Fresh Market is one of the best grocery stores in the Caribbean and always very busy … today only two tills were operating with only 1 or 2 people queued per till. Four days ago they were queued 10 deep on all 8 tills.
I had purposely bought a lot of canned and non perishable foods in case Oh! needs to make a long passage on short notice. Although the Fresh Market is within walking distance of the marina I had left the dingy at, my plan was to take a the free Fresh Market shuttle back… but it was cancelled…taxis were not working either. The short half kilometre walk to the marina suddenly looked very long. It is amazing how many groceries can be packed into two very big blue Ikea reusable bags and my trusty blue MEC waterproof back pack. With a dozen rest stops along the way, everything eventually made it to the dingy. Every 50 meters my body was silently screaming something about making sure the shuttle was working before filling the grocery cart. Funny thing though, I don’t seem to have to reach as far for the tiller handle on the outboard anymore.
As I got to the marina three Spotted Eagle Rays were gliding silently past the dingy. I would never have imagined they would be around the polluted waters of Nassau’s marinas, but there they were. Each was about 0.7 of a meter across. They are such beautiful creatures, and the way they soar effortlessly through the water is incredible to watch.
Although the water in the pictures looks beautiful and clear, there is a lot of floating garbage and oil scum in the harbour, rusting metal and half sunken boats that have long since seen their best days. If all you did was visit Nassau as so many on the cruise ships do, one would probably rave about the beautiful water colour. However, people have to venture away from the harbour to really experience the stunning waters of the Bahamas.
As I write this, I am sitting in the aft cockpit of Oh! enveloped in almost total silence, yet surrounded by the lights of the city. Five mammoth cruise ships are tied to the docks behind where Oh! is anchored. Normally at night these docks are empty. With the lights of all the cabin decks off, these glittering floating palaces of just four days ago now look like ghost ships. They are silently screaming “this is not normal”.
After finishing this post I checked noonsite for updates on the status of the Caribbean Islands that I need to transit if I head to Grenada for Hurricane season. I also checked the Bahamas and discovered that a 9pm to 5 am curfew has be put in place until March 31st. It is time to find a safe anchorage in the Exumas.
Cheers, from the eerie silence of Nassau Harbour.