Back on Elbow Cay, we'd chugged a few beers for courage, then boarded the back of a fancy red golf cart driven by a suspiciously friendly couple named Gigi and Greg, who ostensibly planned to drop us off at the beach, but whom we secretly suspected planned to drop us off at the morgue.
When they aren't out picking up hitchhikers, Gigi and Greg are real estate agents, and if you have spent any time whatsoever reading this blog, you know that one of my favorite pastimes is to walk or bike around and photograph houses. I love architecture, I love interior design, I love landscaping, and I especially love peeping, so cruising around the cutest island we'd seen thusfar with two people who knew everything there was to know about every house, every plot of land, and every resort on the island was nothing short of a little slice of heaven three days into Hell Week.
In addition, Greg spent most of his working life as a pilot for Bahamas Air and, even more interestingly, as a test pilot. The test pilot is that crazy SOB who gets in a brand-new plane that no one has ever flown before -- because they're not sure it actually can fly -- and tests it out. The fact that Greg is still alive and living it up in the Bahamas just goes to show you that he is either very, very lucky . . . or very, very quick with the Eject button.
Our first stop was at what Gigi called Stonehenge, a fantastic rock formation overlooking the wild surf below.
Next, we stopped at the Abaco Inn for more beer and to take in the view. It was easier to chat here than on the golf cart, and we quickly discovered that if we couldn't actually be Gigi and Greg, then we would have to settle for being their new best friends.
As we were departing Abaco Inn, Gigi and I both stopped at the exact same moment to admire this woman's cute little anchor-print cover up. "Quick, get a back shot!" Gigi stage-whispered. Best friends, I tell you.
Next it was off to Tilloo, where we took in the view . . .
. . . and ogled some of the island's impressive waterfront homes.
Plus this little guy, which Gigi and I both agreed was preferable to any mansion because it would be easier to clean. Lazy minds think alike.
But perhaps the most impressive home of all was the one that Gigi and Greg designed and built for themselves a few years back.
They invited us in, and if we both hadn't had to use the bathroom pretty desperately after downing all those beers, we would never have come inside, because everyone knows that once you accept a ride from a stranger, it's just one small step over the threshold before they are sewing themselves a nice new suit made out of your skin.
We were greeted by their beautiful dog Shadow, he of the stunning eyes and delightfully velvety ears.
The house was gorgeous, with double-height ceilings, a commanding view over the ocean, and a large backyard pool.
The eclectic decor included the World's Largest Onion and a plant Greg received from one of his real estate clients, ballad singer Burl Ives. If you can read the rest of this without "Silver and Gold" playing in your head, you have much more control over your subconscious mind than I do.
(Seriously, though: What's up with that onion?)
Gigi wanted to show me her other pets, so we went outside to the yard and she began calling for them. "Hawkeye! Laverne! Squigmund!" I expected a few cats, or maybe more dogs, but I should have known by now that this afternoon was defying all expectations.
We got back to the boat later than we'd planned, but spending the afternoon with Gigi and Greg had been so thoroughly enjoyable that we didn't really want it to end. (We of course invited them over to Guana so we could treat them to dinner at the spot of their choosing, to which Greg replied with an emphatic, "Um, no." I guess Guana is the armpit of the Abacos?) Our magical day continued on the boat ride home, where we finally got a tiny glimpse of how wonderful boating in the Sea of Abaco could be.
That evening we grabbed a quick dinner at Nippers . . .
. . . then decided to stop at Pirate's Cove for a beer and a glass of wine. Or some semi-chilled Chardonnay in a plastic cup, as the case may be.
Sure, I knew better than to order wine at a roadside shack. But we'd just come from dinner at a place that looked like my parents' basement circa 1974, for which I'd gotten ready in the dark and without a hair dryer since the power had gone out, and for god's sakes, man, I'm from New York. I had made it five days on an island without 24-7 access to organic smoothies and hot-stone massages and arugula, but enough was enough. If there was any chance, no matter how infinitesimal, of getting a nice glass of wine in a real wine glass, I was going to take it.
I was also not going to give up on that ring toss until I did it.
I did it!!!
At Pirate's Cove we got to chatting with Ricky Sands and his lovely fiancee Katie, and soon our tales of woe came tumbling out: We can't dock the boat! We can't navigate the boat! We HATE the boat! There is a spider the size of my palm in the Spider Room (formerly known as the Ironing Board Room) and we can't go in there anymore! How do you get your hair so clean? There's a SPARE WATER TANK?!?!? At one point Katie gently suggested that perhaps we should hire a guide -- not necessarily Ricky, just someone who could save us from having to buy Water Ways a new boat at the end of our trip. Angel grabbed onto the idea like it was an actual life preserver, but I steadfastly refused: We'd come down here to go boating, dammit, and we were going to accomplish that goal, even if we died trying.
Or that spider got to us first.
The next day, Thursday, the wind finally died down. We knew this might be our only chance to shoot over to Treasure Cay, so we loaded our emergency peanut butter onto the boat and set off for parts unknown.
We first headed north, past Spoil Bank Cay and the north end of Guana, and then we spotted two islands. One was Whale Cay, and the other was Treasure Cay. But which one was which? We must have gotten turned around a bit, because we had no idea. After much debate we decided to head for the island that was further away since that route seemed more dangerous; plus, from that distance we couldn't even confirm whether it was land or just some haze on the horizon. This was the lesson Abaco had taught us: Never take the easy way when you can take the difficult, dangerous, or foolhardy way.
Sometimes a fool's gambit pays off, though, and soon we found ourselves at Treasure Cay. After a little trouble finding the harbor entrance (apparently those poles with the red triangles mean "stay away," not "enter here"), we made our way in. We'd been told that the Treasure Cay resort made guest dockage available for those visiting for lunch, so we entered the marina . . . and were confronted by docks in every direction, dozens of docks, all of them unmarked.
That's another thing about boating in the Abacos. Nobody tells you where to dock until you've already docked, and then they are happy to point out that you cannot dock there and must dock somewhere else. But perhaps there is some room for compromise here: If the dockmasters would be willing to invest in some signage, we would be willing to stop docking in spots meant for 40-foot yachts.
We docked smoothly, tied up, grabbed a golf cart, and made a beeline for that day's destination: Treasure Sands.
Ah, Treasure Sands. It was chi-chi. It was snobby. It was overpriced.
We loved it.
We luxuriated in the hushed atmosphere devoid of whooping adults and sugar-addled children. We delighted in the cloth napkins and real silverware. We indulged in the best pina coladas we'd had all week. We gazed at the pristine beach and pined for a dip in the sparkling pool.
We lunched on gazpacho and lobster and fresh fish and more pina coladas, and when a fellow diner saw the glee on our faces and offered to take our picture, we couldn't help but laugh like loons.
We whiled away the afternoon by alternating between floating in the warm sea and lounging by the refreshing pool.
When it was time to leave, I dug my nails into that nice, cushy chaise lounge and held on for dear life, but eventually Angel pried me loose and loaded me and my buckets of tears back into the golf cart.
Hoping to repeat the upscale experience we had at Treasure Sands, that evening we headed over to Grabbers for Italian Night, lured by this boast from their web site: "How about ravioli or veal picatta, of course spaghetti and yes, even pizza....all served with a new selection of fine wines in a real wine glass!" That's right . . . fine wines, in a real wine glass. I was so excited that I got gussied up in one of the sundresses I'd managed to iron before the Spider Room had to be sealed off and scrunched my unruly hair into curls and even put on shoes.
There was no Italian Night. There were no Real Wine Glasses. There was, however, a grouper special topped with a tomato-based sauce and the same pizza that is on the menu all the time, and this is probably what people mean when they say that Abaco teaches you to make the best of things.
On our way over to Grabbers, we'd stopped in the settlement to take some pictures of the sunset over the harbor.
I walked out onto the dock, holding my camera and the lens cap and my little tiki purse, which is three things, while I have only two hands and zero coordination. Which explains how the lens cap ended up slipping out of my hand and landing exactly between the wooden slats of the dock and plopping into the water below.
"This is not how I wanted to learn to play water polo," Angel muttered as I handed him a long wooden stick studded with rusty nails that I found lying about and cheered him on as he slowly pushed the lens cap toward the shore.
Lens cap back in hand, we drove the short distance over to Grabbers for "Italian Night" and settled in with a couple of drinks, served in plastic cups. Abaco: Teaching spoiled brats everywhere to make the best of things.
We were nearing the end of the week, and I still hadn't had a proper lobster tail, so I decided to get one at Grabbers. That turned out to be the best decision I'd made all week. The broiled lobster was tender, juicy, and caramelized on the top thanks to having been run through the kitchen's Salamander, and the butter was browned and laced with lemon or crack or whatever.
It was so good I even ate the shell. Kidding!
Angel ordered the coconut-fried lobster, and although fried trumps broiled in almost all instances, I think we both agreed that broiled was the way to go, if only just this once.
Our meal ended, as so many do, with a bout of thumb-wrestling over who would get "the point" on this decadent piece of key lime pie.
The next morning we stopped in the settlement on the way to the dock to do a little shopping and take in some of the sights.
The cute little dog in the photo above chased and barked at every golf cart that went by. The first time he chased our cart, I didn't see him at first, and he scared the bejeezus of me when suddenly there was a chihuahua trying to attach itself to my arm. Which normally wouldn't be so scary, except for that time a few summers ago when I was at a fancy gelato shop in the Hamptons and bent down to pet a little chihuahua and he suddenly went nuts and tried to bite my thumb off. "Oh, did you pet him?" his owner asked nonchalantly as I tried to stanch the bleeding with my gelato cone. "He doesn't really like that." Oh, really? Because I don't like having my thumb amputated by a dog who's dressed better than I am. (For the record, Cujo was wearing a Burberry jacket that probably cost more than that tetanus shot I needed afterwards.)
After a quick stop at the drug store, I went ahead and maxed out my credit card at a beachy little shop called Gone Conchin'. I figured that if the Abacos ended up being the death of me, I'd never have to pay the bill.
We'd decided to head back to Treasure Cay so we could spend the day at our new favorite place, Treasure Sands, and so we could have at least one trip to an island where we didn't stop in the middle of the ocean, consult the map, throw up our hands, and flip a coin. We docked easily without any incidents and headed over to the cart rental to get the day under way.
Alas, no carts were available, but the beach at Treasure Cay Resort beckoned, as did the mile-high banana coladas at the CoCo Beach Bar.
As we approached the restaurant, I noticed this sign.
Now, perhaps they meant to say "anybody," and not "any body." Still, wouldn't you love to be in charge of determining exactly which bodies are undesirable? "Excuse me, sir, but you and your beer belly will have to imbibe elsewhere." "I don't care how much you paid for those boobs, ma'am, we still can't let you in." "I'm sorry, sir, but that much hair is offensive . . . and unsanitary."
Feeling pretty good that we hadn't been turned away by the Physique Police, we snagged two chairs and an umbrella on the beach, ordered another round of drinks, and luxuriated in the sun until it was time for lunch.
A chef's salad, some grouper fingers, and a fish sammie later . . .
And it was back to the beach for some soak time, followed by a walk over to Windward Point.
You know how Moses spent 40 years wandering in the desert? That was the walk over to Windward Point.
The sand along that never-ending stretch of beach was exactly like the quicksand in that old episode of "Gilligan's Island": No matter how close to or far from the water's edge we walked, it sucked us in with a sickening thuuuup and refused to let go. Every step was agony: I'd put my foot down, the sand would ooze up from in between my toes, and then I'd sink ever downward into the grainy abyss until I could barely see my knees. Trying to remove the lower portion of my leg from that sand was like trying to remove your foot from a pair of Wellies: You just know that if you pull too hard, you'll end up knocking your front teeth out with your own knee. And so we slogged on like that for 26.2 miles . . . uphill, both ways.
Forty years later we made it back to Treasure Cay resort, at which point I collapsed in the sand like those people who decide to climb Mount Everest, realize halfway up that it was a bad idea, and then lay down in the snow to die.
Indeed, that walk took so long that by the time we made it back to our beach chairs, it was just about time to head to the dock and depart for Guana. It was good timing, too, as a large rain cloud was forming on the horizon, and by now we already knew that if it was going to settle over any one particular boat and then swallow it whole, it would be ours.
We ran the boat faster than we'd ever dared before, successfully outrunning the storm and arriving safely back on Guana. Our last full day on the boat had come to an end with us still alive and the boat’s hull still intact, so we decided to celebrate with a bottle of wine before leaving the boat for the night. Angel popped the cork and poured us each a glass, and we made a heartfelt toast to the guy who invented life jackets.
And we couldn’t help but shake our heads and laugh as the first rumble of thunder rocked the boat and the rain swept in, dripping down through the Bimini top and plopping into our wine glasses.
The storm didn't last long, so that evening we headed out for one last dinner, back over at Baker's Bay. We figured that if you're going to single-handedly destroy an entire ecosystem, the least you could do is provide the hypocrites who come by for dinner with real wine glasses and cloth napkins and candlelight.
Then again, maybe it was wrong to expect too much from a restaurant housed in a deli.
Still, the food was good, and they did put these fancy sauce swirls on our plates. Real plates.
Afterwards, I savored the long, bumpy ride back to the house, knowing that it would be our last.
On our last morning, I awoke earlier than usual and decided to take a quick ride over to Secret Beach to catch the sunrise.
As I took my last mist-shower back at the house, I allowed my mind to drift to the simple pleasures of the Abacos that we'd come to enjoy over the past week: bumping along the rocky road in our little cart, gazing at the dozens of shades of turquoise water in every direction, marveling at a night sky blanketed with more stars than I ever dreamed existed.
But like a pet chimpanzee who seems all friendly at first, then suddenly goes berserk and rips your face off, those lovely last two days were just Abaco lulling us into a false sense of security, while it was actually gearing up for its big "I Told You This Place Ain't For Sissies" Grand Finale. We still had to depart from Guana, make a stop at Man-O-War, and head over to the airport on Marsh Harbour, and if you're already thinking that 3 islands + 2 les incompetents + 1 boat = an infinite number of chances for things to go wrong, then I think you are adequately prepared for Part 3.