It is a running joke aboard our boat to pronounce our boat’s name, Illusion, as Illooooosion and to occasionally sing Gob’s magician song (from the old TV show Arrested Development) as we approach our boat in the dingy. So you can only imagine our excitement upon finding this little gem just down the street from the dingy dock in Nassau. Although we did not pop into the actual establishment (we were not sure that it was still in operation), we did pass this sign on multiple occasions, pausing once to snap a photo.
We wandered along the waterfront streets, passing conch vendors and liquor stores, all the way down to the cruise ship terminal, where we visited the Straw Market. Mainly targeted at the hordes of cruise ship passengers passing through the area, it seemed a bit more staged than I remembered it as a fifteen-year-old visiting with my parents, but Brian and I did buy a sweet pair of hand-carved wooden Bahamas mugs (made in the Philippines – of course). At the Green Parrot, we sipped on ice-cold Kaliks as we typed out emails (and a blog post) and stared out into the harbour.
We spent most of our time provisioning for the Exumas, but one night, along with SV Rasmus, we joined up with another boat of young cruisers aboard SV Panacea and headed over to the casino Atlantis. Due to our tight budget (aka non-existent extraneous funds), Brian and I wandered around the labyrinthine aquarium downstairs while our friends played the nickle slots upstairs. We meandered through the maze of glass tanks that towered above our heads and dispersed blue reflections of light around our feet. The dark shapes of rays, sharks, tuna, and jacks slid silently by. It was late and the staff began turning off the lights of the exhibit. Jellyfish glowed neon white and blue in their dark tanks, and a man with a flashlight spotlighted a tiny seahorse exhibit for us to see.
It was quite a juxtaposition: the serene aquarium winding through man-made caves below a music-pumping dance bar and cathedral-like space filled with slot machines, gambling tables, and smartly dressed, intoxicated men and women. The Bahamians are not allowed to gamble at Atlantis. I find it interesting that the most extravagant architectural structure in the Bahamas is a casino that the locals cannot enjoy. Not that the small brightly painted, cinder-block houses and wooden cabins are any less appealing to my visual perception and taste. But it seems to me an accurate metaphor for the whole Bahamas: the big hotels come to the islands to build extravagant, all-inclusive resorts that pamper and impress visitors, while many of the islands’ local populations persist by humble means. The guests of the big resorts ooh and aww over the views and complain about the room service, while the tiny local communities subsist on brackish water and generators. Greeting everyone with a bright smile and a big hello, they welcome us all to their home and country.
And having arrived on a boat, I know that there is a whole underwater world of fish and plant life swimming below my feet even at this very moment. Expansive and silent, it operates on its’ own imperatives, while we humans talk politics and sip rum on the sandy shores.