A DAY AT THE BEACH
Funny thing about paradise is it does have a price. Yes, both monetarily and otherwise. As a dear old Ex-English Patriot friend of mine once told me some years back, Exuma is a place that demands a certain amount of patience. She was correct. My friend and her husband have lived on Great Exuma since the 1960s and now consider England their second home.
Running a rental property in the Caribbean can be challenging and also very rewarding. Sand Nickels has hosted people from almost every continent of the world and also has provided a back drop for honeymoons, special birthdays, anniversaries and others who simply wish to reset and retool. Exuma is the attraction, we just provide a place to call home while there.
That being said, we have a fantastic group of local professionals that keep the property in tip top shape. From groundskeepers, landscapers, house cleaners, maintenance personnel to electricians, plumbers and carpenters. Lest not forget pest control, air conditioner maintenance and generator maintenance. It is a team of local talent that serves to provide the quality that I always searched for when staying at rentals throughout the Caribbean. They are also our friends, I am proud to say. The salt air and sand while charming, can take a quick toll on a beach house and it must be constantly be maintained.
When we envisioned Sand Nickels, it was with the idea that we would build a small place on a calm beach for us to retreat to when the world became a bit overwhelming. After being introduced to the local culture, we very much fell in love with Exuma. We decided to share the experience with a friend or two and eventually it became a rental property. I must confess, there are many times throughout the process I thought what exactly have I gotten myself into and perhaps a condo in Florida would have been good and finally am I drinking too much?
It is really a quite a simple concept: 1) Fly to island 2) Find land on beach 3) Build house 4) Make libation 5) Consume. Repeat number 4 and 5 if and when necessary. As most things in life, this project came with a few wrinkles. Additionally, if you plan to do this with a significant other, a true testament to your relationship.
After the architects, local construction permits, local electrical permits, local plumbing permits, local engineering permits, local environmental permits, actual construction and final habitability approval, you are done! Well, sort of.... Okay , lets buy some furniture and oh yeah appliances. I guess we could use a stove and a bed. Problem being, there really are no such places on any Exuma cay to buy such a “ting.”
Therefore, next step, purchase everything you need state side and ship it over. Actually, just get on line and have Amazon send it over. Even better, purchase everything on line and with free shipping you are in fine shape. Yes, they do not ship there and I once sent a Christmas card in November to a friend in Exuma and it arrived in May of the following year. I sent it express. No, you must purchase everything you think you may use and send it to a shipping company in Florida. The items can be trucked, mailed or driven there in your car. They in turn will collect your items, segregate them and hold them for the shipment. Once you have determined your shipment order is complete, they will pallet and shrink wrap your various items. They will also inspect for any hazardous items.
After this is complete, they will place your items in a cargo container, assuming you have ordered and sent enough material (which you will as you will certainly be saying to yourself, “hell I might as well send two or three garden hoses as I’m doing this already). Keep your receipts and have them organized and sent to the company. Prior to shipment, I strooooooooongly recommend a customs broker on Exuma. You see, when the shipment arrives, the Bahamian government will charge a duty or tax on most things being brought in.
This may demand a tax rate of up to 85 percent for a given particular item. So you have bought the item, paid for its transport to Florida, paid for it to be segregated and palleted and then shrink wrapped. Paid to have it shipped to Exuma and then unloaded. Then you get to pay the Bahamian taxes. In our case, we had sent down some cleaning supplies . That prompted a Haz Mat alert and the shipping personnel then proceeded to open up the boxes and other various items to locate the suspicious can of Raid. These items were then further segregated for Haz Mat shipping. The then now opened items had to re boxed and re palleted and re shrink-wrapped, at a nominal fee of course. Oh wait, you need a mattress, just buy one at Costco correct. Now lets truck that to Florida. Or hey, I will just bring that book shelf that my mother gave me, it was from Grenada, where my uncle lived. Now I just have to have that trucked to Florida . It’s sounds really chaotic, I suppose in retrospect it seemed so, however it really was very smooth and professional, but expensive.
I had read and spoken with some friends in Exuma about items being damaged when shipped. One claimed an entire couch was inexplicably broken in half. We crossed our fingers. Everything arrived in tact and undamaged. A huge shipping container was taken off the ship, placed on a trailer and hauled by a semi to our house. If you have ever driven in Great Exuma, you know that always is a spectacle. There it was unpacked by yours truly, my wife, several local friends and two dear friends that flew down with us to help do this. Their payment would be a beautiful island respite in September while unpacking a box or two.
The unpacking went a great deal quicker than we planned, as our friends on the Exuma side had already made entry into our house the day before we arrived and unboxed every item and discarded the boxes outside upon our arrival. All that remained was putting things where they belonged. It only took a day of the four days we had budgeted. 2 days to play and thus reward our traveling companions for their commitment and also great for me as I love to show off my island Exuma.
We drove to Coco Plum and then headed the opposite end of the island to feast at Santana’s. I arranged a private tour with my friend Evviee (SHOUT OUT) at Island Boy Adventures to do the Cays trip. By the way, Evvie has also since opened up Island Boy cafe in GGT and the food and place is awesome (SECOND SHOUT OUT BOY!) I had also been watching a small TD (Tropical Depression) called Irma just off the coast of North Africa. It was present when I left the states but was far off and still a TD. Having grown up in the Caribbean and Florida , I knew a little about following these curses. But this one was different, just strange.
As we placed the very last item in a drawer, the BBQ on the main deck was up and running, it was 5 pm, the sun was setting, you could hear the ocean and the Kalik was ice cold!!! It had been another beautiful day.
I flipped on the news upstairs on the TV and saw that this TD Irma thing had turned into a real THING and had done so very rapidly. My friends were leaving the day after tomorrow and we were leaving the day after that. That was the day this THING called Irma was projected to hit the very spot I was currently in, watching TV and grilling fresh Lobster. Yes it could change direction, but it was big and moving fast. It started to look like it would be a wrecking ball, Category 5 plus, a monster!
Evvie called and said if we still wanted to head out tomorrow for the excursion that was cool, but as the potentially most damaging hurricane in history is forecast to hit the day later, he thought it prudent that I should be getting my “f ing ass” off the island, as he so calmly put it. As my friends already were booked to leave the day prior to the potential annihilation , I hung up with Evvie and consulted with some close Exuma friends. We all thought it best that me and my wife leave as well, if we can. You see the generator was not in yet and a prolonged power failure would be a certain. Also we had not provisioned for such an event and the grocery and hardware store shelves were becoming increasingly empty by the minute. We were invited by several Exuma friends to share their places should we not be able to get off island.
My wife decided she wished to ride out the storm at Sand Nicklels. She explained this to me in great detail as I was confirming our booking from Exuma to Nassau, Nassau to Ft. Lauderdale, Ft. Lauderdale to Birmingham, Birmingham to Chicago and Chicago to our state side home. I recall locking the front door of the place I just spent 2 years of planning, money and most of all passion and emotion putting together. We literally just placed the last item on a shelf the night before and now I am shutting off the water and may never see it again. It was so not right and potentially short lived and outright unfair. Sounds corny now.
I think we literally caught the last Sky Bahamas flight that morning to Nassau. While waiting in Nassau for the second leg of this world tour of connections I had secured, we saw the first victim of Irma on a television in a lounge, the tiny island nation of Barbuda. It was absolutely apocalyptic. I looked at my wife and we both could not speak. We caught our next leg and also confirmed that my stateside friends had arrived in Atlanta. Irma continued in short order. Places I have lived and visited were decimated, The British Virgin Islands, the United States Virgin Islands, Cuba, Puerto Rico... you know the rest of that story. The Exumas were spared because of a “wobble.” Some sister Bahamian islands were not near as fortunate and still to this day are suffering.
I suppose the lesson learned is from the Exumians themselves. They are not super people that are oblivious to storms, they prepare for the worst and hope for the best. But their message is well taken. Rather than fearing for tomorrow and they appreciate today. A thought process that is something we all could use a bit more of in our daily outlook. This I have learned.
Sand Nickels and Exuma has survived Three Major hurricanes to date and Exuma has dodged several others. She has stood strong and defiant and in a sense, so has Sand Nickels . One day I shall bring those two stateside friends back for their day at the beach!