Tarpit Harbour -March 20, 2003
Eileen mows the lawn in preparation of leaving Tarpit Harbour
(E. Quinn, Tarpit Harbour)
You'll never find Tarpit Harbour on a chart. Like Margaritaville or Hotel California, it's a state of mind rather than an actual place. The defining feature of Tarpit Harbour is that it's tough as hell to leave. Cruisers arrive in Tarpit Harbour with every intention quickly to move on, and months later - sometimes even years later - find that they're still firmly mired where they first dropped the hook. In the Caribbean, Luperon in the Dominican Republic, Simpson Lagoon in Sint Maarten, Admiralty Bay in Bequia, Chaguaramas in Trinidad, Puerto La Cruz in Venezuela, and the Rio Dulce in Guatemala could all lay claim to the title. In the southern Bahamas, George Town is the quintessential Tarpit Harbour.
There are many reasons (most of them positive) why it's so difficult to escape Tarpit Harbour. Usually the weather is fine and the holding is secure. Goods and services are easily accessible. The cost of living is reasonable. But most important, there's an established community of cruisers.
In Tarpit Harbour, the socializing never ends. Old friends show up, sometimes unexpectedly. Here in George Town, David met a couple he had first encountered in the south Pacific 17 years ago. They had completed a circumnavigation or two since he last saw them in New Zealand in 1987. In renewing acquaintances with old friends, you're often introduced to new ones, and the web of connections expands. Other contacts are made in a random set of encounters: commiserating with the person waiting beside you in the phone office; sharing a recipe at a beach potluck; retrieving a runaway dinghy as it drifts past your boat. Pretty soon you've got a social engagement planned for every day of the week and you're wondering when you'll have the time to reciprocate.
We got up a few days ago, looked at the calendar, and realized we were into our third month in George Town. "Little Gidding" was in danger of becoming permanently attached to bottom of Elizabeth Harbour. Below the hull we were developing our own little fish colony. David said, "We'd better get out of here before we're declared an ecological reserve."
We're in departure mode now. Eileen gave a final beach concert on Saturday. David took a bunch of plastic containers ashore and topped up the water tanks. We crossed the harbour in our dinghy to pick up a few more groceries in town. On the way back, Eileen remarked, "We sure don't seem to be moving very fast."
"Maybe we should clean the bottom of the dinghy before we go," David replied.
Later that day, we got out the bucket, a scraper and scrub brush and headed for the beach. There was as much grass on the bottom of the dinghy as you're likely to find on a typical suburban lawn. We set to work, feeling only slightly guilty that we were destroying a major marine life habitat.
Last night we had a farewell dinner with our friends Glenn and Pam on board their catamaran, "Anything Goes". Glenn mentioned there were still a few more reefs to check out before lobster season closes. Pam added that the short term weather report hinted at unsettled conditions. David responded, "Well, I guess we can always wait another day or two before we leave."
"I can hear the grass growing on the bottom of the dinghy," Eileen said.