Our Bahamian Guardian Angel

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March 22, 2018

     With it’s ultra-aggressive hawkers, cruise ship cattle, and upper crust mega-yacht twat aficionados, it would be incredibly easy to completely write off Nassau as shallow and superfluous.  

     Yet, deep down, that would be an unfair characterization.  Most of those people are irrelevant travelers passing through; and many of the locals are largely just trying to play a weak hand dealt to them, the best way they can.

     Oftentimes, it is when you delve off the beaten path, risking life and limb (more than one travel source we referenced warned of the potential danger of straying away from the crowds), that you actually stand a chance at finding the real heart and soul of a location.

    Though we had staved off the emergency situation of having our fuel tank leaking diesel all over the inside of our home, we still needed to find gasket material to sort out our fuel tank sending unit for the long term.  We suspected that the material we had used was not really fit for diesel applications; consequently, the breakdown of the rubber would eventually lead to more grief.

     After calling a dozen marine or more repair facilities, auto parts or hardware stores, we still had no confirmation that the material we needed was in stock at any of them.  As is often the case, the best tactic is simply to hit the streets.

     On the phone, one woman had indicated that they had two kinds of gasket material in stock, but she knew nothing about gaskets beyond that.  The problem was, after a dozen calls, I had lost track of which facility this was.

     So, we set out on foot, hoping that we would stumble across the gasket material.  Either sheer luck or tenacity would do.

     As we waited in line at one parts supply store, we were approached by a Bahamian who asked us what we were trying to find.  Hinging between suspicion and desperation, we explained the situation.  Much to the chagrin of the woman behind the counter, he indicated we my be able to find the material at a different location – one at which he was headed to next.

     After the employee confirmed that they, in fact, did not have the gasket material we were trying to find, the guy told us he would be happy to give us a ride to the parts store he thought would have what we were looking for.  

     Though our experience thus far had not given us a great deal of confidence in the good will of Nassau locals, with a bit of trepidation we accepted the offer.  When another person behind the counter asked the guy if he actually knew where the store in question was, as well as warned us that, if he tried to take us by the airport, we were being taken for a ride, we became even more skeptical.

     Yet, no serious danger alarms triggered, so we followed the lead we were offered.  After climbing in his car, the man introduced himself as Ray Cunningham, a mechanic who worked for ICS of the Bahamas (an armored car company similar to Brinks).

     He went to a couple of other shops he needed to visit before bringing us to AID, the massive parts store he had recommended trying.  Sure enough, they had what we were looking for; and, because of his help we walked out the door with the gasket material in hand in short order.

     Afterwards, he was kind enough to drop us off at a nearby grocery store where he offered to wait for us while we went shopping for provisions so he could give us a ride back to the marina.  Considering the marina was only a few blocks away, we declined the offer, not wanting to take advantage of the situation.

     He happily gave us his phone number and promised, if we found ourselves in another bind, he would help us out again. 

    A couple of days later, one of our propane tanks ran out.  When we asked the marina dock-master, as well as other cruisers at the marina, about getting tanks filled, no one had a definitive solution.

    So… we called Ray. 

     Sure enough, he picked up the empty tank from us at the marina, drove thirty or so minutes to a location that filled propane, and then brought us the full tank the next day.  As before, he asked for nothing in return; he simply said he wanted to do what he could to help us out.

     After Shannan and Vicki departed Nassau, bound for home, we headed back to West Bay to anchor in our old location.  

     Earlier, when we cleared Customs in Bimini (our first stop in the Bahamas), we had received an eight month cruising permit for the Bahamas.  However, for some reason we never quite understood, when I went to clear Immigration at a different location, they only issued us forty days on our passports.  Now we were down to less than ten days remaining.

     We had already visited the immigration office in Nassau a couple of days earlier to try to sort this out.  But when we explained the situation to the officer behind the window, we were told we needed to get our visa extension once we arrived in Georgetown, where we were planning on heading to anyway.

     Unfortunately, weather had prevented us from departing New Providence as soon as we had hoped we would.  As we approached only a week left on our visas, we knew we would be hard pressed to make Georgetown before the visas expired, which would cause us all kinds of trouble.  As a general rule, overstaying the date stamped on your visa rarely turns out well.  Georgetown was the nearest location outside Nassau that could issue that extension; furthermore, the last thing we wanted to do was race straight to Georgetown, missing everything in between, simply to beat the deadline.

     Trying to be pro-active to avoid a visa disaster, we decided to give it one more try in Nassau.  We had already spoken to another immigration official on the phone (seemingly farther up the command chain but located somewhere else), and they had assured us that we should be able to take care of this at the Nassau location if we went back and explained the circumstances.

     The problem was now we were at West Bay – a fifty dollar one-way taxi ride into Nassau.  And apparently the local buses didn’t come that far out on their normal routes.

     So, desperate once again, we called our new friend Ray.  He warned us to be extremely cautious; there may be people at the park we could dinghy to, but not to trust them to give us a ride.  Instead, he called us back shortly thereafter, informing us that he had already spoken with a bus driver who had agreed to come out the extra distance to pick us up at the park entrance.  The bus fare would be five dollars each.  He left us with the driver’s phone number, to verify the pickup time the next morning.  Not only that, he also assured us that if, for any reason, the bus didn’t pick us up, he would come out and get us himself… golden!

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DefCon1… photo of license plate in case our dinghy turned up missing

     The following morning, our phone rang.  It was Ray, wanting to confirm everything was ok.

     When we arrived at the immigration office this time, there was quite a line.  We waited over an hour outside, just to get into the main office.  During that time Ray called again, checking on our progress.

     Once inside, we had to wait even longer before talking to an official.  While we waited, Ray actually showed up with a big smile on his face, just wanting to see how things were going.  He had a brief word with the person behind the office window, to try to expedite things, as well as make sure they understood our situation.  Good old Ray… greasing the wheels of the snail’s paced government office on our behalf!  Soon after, our passports were stamped and we were out the door, this time good for three additional months.

     We couldn’t thank Ray enough for all his assistance.  He told us if we got into trouble anytime while we were in the Bahamas, call him and he would do whatever he could to help us out again.  We don’t doubt that for an instant. 

     Individuals like Ray are the embodiment of human potential – a truly friendly person of limited means who just wants to do good and help out whenever possible.  His motivations are not greed or ambition, but merely pure kindness.  For cruisers like us, his efforts make the journey we’re on not only more feasible, but also incredibly enjoyable.  

     We can only take his lead as an example to follow ourselves.  Hopefully, if we are fortunate, our paths will cross again.  And if we find ourselves in a situation we can’t resolve, we have absolutely no doubt that Ray will pick up the phone and move the world for us with a smile on his face.  Cheers to you Ray, our Bahamian Guardian Angel… you are a diamond!!!

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