April 9, 2016

As I’ve mentioned previously, one of the best things about cruising is the people we meet along the way. Cruisers are a unique bunch and there is a strong sense of community and camaraderie amongst fellow boaters. One of the most memorable couples we have met in our travels were Larry and Sharon.

We met them at the end of October as we were working our way down the Florida coast, getting ready to jump over to the Bahamas. We were docked at Nettles Island, a square man-made piece of land off of Jensen Beach, Florida. I was in the cockpit, getting ready to start breakfast when I saw a man in a motorized wheelchair coming down the dock. It’s not unusual to see non-boaters in marinas, especially if the marina has a restaurant, as folks tend to be fascinated by boats.

The man said “hi” and introduced himself to us as Larry. It turned out he had been a boater for many years and had sailed to the Bahamas with his wife Sharon aboard their trawler for ten years running, stopping only when his health prevented him from continuing (specifically when he could no longer get into the engine room to work on the engine). We chatted for about 45 minutes about boating and the Bahamas, Larry giving us many tips on places to see, things to do and stuff to be aware of. One of the things we discussed was lobstering; we were anxious to catch lobster while we were in the Bahamas but had no idea how to do it. Larry had done quite a bit of it and told us to get a spear.


Signpost, Black Point, Great Guana Cay, Exuma

Lobster spears have a rubber loop sling attached to the end. You gripped the sling between your thumb and forefinger, pushed the spear back to stretch the sling and then grabbed the spear shaft. With the sling stretched all you had to do was put the spear tip close to the lobster (which hide in rock crevices) and release the shaft. The stretched sling would propel the spear into the lobster and voila…lobster dinner.

We told him we’d look for one and he bid us farewell. After he left we talked about what a great guy he was and how getting to know him had re-enforced our belief in sailing while we were still healthy enough to do it. Larry clearly missed being able to boat, even though he and Sharon still traveled in an RV, and we knew that whatever ailment had ended his boating life could happen to anyone at any time.

Day Sailer Black Point

Daysailer, Black Point

About an hour later he returned and said “I got something for you”. With that, he handed me his old lobster spear. As I thanked him profusely, he said he had a favor to ask of us in return. He and Sharon had stopped at a community called Black Point on Great Guana Cay every time they went to the Bahamas. They had become good friends with Mum, a local lady who was a baker and was famous for her cinnamon-raisin bread. Since Black Point is very remote, cinnamon and raisins were hard to come by, especially in large quantities. Therefore, Larry and Sharon started bringing supplies of cinnamon and raisins with them whenever they visited. Larry asked if we would consider delivering a load of these items to Mum in their stead. We of course said that we’d be delighted to.

Boat Black Point 2

Black Point Anchorage

Larry said that Sharon would come by later and take us to a local Sam’s Club equivalent to load up on raisins and cinnamon, as well as to West Marine and to the grocery store for last minute supplies. Sharon came by later that morning in her van and bought us flowers in a reusable collapsible vase (which we still have and use). She took us to West Marine, we went to the big box store for the raisins and cinnamon and then finished off with a grocery store run.

Afterward, we took Sharon out to lunch at a Mexican restaurant to thank her for her help. During lunch we chatted a lot and finally found out what ailment had ended Larry’s boating career…

Polio. Larry had been disabled almost his entire life. Including the 10 years that they boated in the Bahamas.

In spite of the challenges, Larry lived his life more vivaciously than 95% of us who don’t face the same obstacles. And he continues to do so. I don’t even know how it’s possible to do all the things that he would have had to do to boat for all of those years. I try to remember that every time I’m whining because this or that seems like too much of a trial for me.


JOD anchored off of Black Point

It took us quite a bit longer than we had expected, what with our emergency trip back home to Huntsville but on Saturday, April 9 we fulfilled our promise and delivered the raisins and cinnamon to Mum. It was a very rewarding feeling and Cindy and I plan to bring more with us when we return next year. We also plan on bringing school supplies and DVDs (the one store that rents them has only about 20 or so) and other things that this isolated community can use, thereby carrying on a tradition that Larry and Sharon started. Hopefully for years to come.