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Offbeat news and upbeat thoughts from Dunmore Town
Harbour Island, Bahamas

Volume 5 - August 2000
The Fig Tree is published by the Briland Modem located online at Briland.com, offering community news and information for Harbour Island and North Eleuthera, Bahamas.

In this issue:
Briland Family Reunion: July 2000 |Heard around the islands |Dear Fig Tree
Harbour Island District Center
Briland Fiction | The Fig Tree - pg.2
Briland fiction| Bahamas News
The Bahamas: International Financial Centre

Storm Season Update | Briland Fire Brigade
Your Byline


Briland News

Briland Family Reunion: July 2000
By Mandy Bolen - Citizen Staff Writer

The Bahamian roots of Key West were personalized over the Independence Day weekend when more than 200 descendants of Harbour Island residents converged in town for the annual Harbour Island Family Reunion Picnic. Harbour Island, which sits at the tip of Eleuthera, Bahamas, was the home to many families that eventually migrated to Key West. Those families and their descendants became the earliest residents of Key West's Bahama Village, and many of those surnames can now be found on both Harbour Island and Key West.

Norma Jean Sawyer, one such descendant, can trace her ancestry back to the Bahamian settlement that is one of the oldest in the chain of islands. She acted as hostess for the hundreds of visitors who share an island heritage. The annual reunion picnic brings together people from all over the country who can trace their ancestors back to Harbour Island, and has been held in Miami, Tampa, New York and Canada.

"But this was the first time in its 24 years that the reunion was in Key West," Sawyer said, while rattling off locally known family names that are mirrored in the Bahamas. "All the streets in Harbour Island are the same family names as in Key West."

The Sweetings, the Johnsons, the Majors, the Sawyers and the Careys - all are names that can still be found on Harbour Island, where everyone knows everyone else. Even the island's guide books refer to Harbour Island as the home of the "friendliest people." The descendants of those friendly people shared a traditional Bahamian picnic Saturday at Sonny McCoy Indigenous Park, where a guava duff pastry dessert was brought directly from the islands, along with the popular pineapple coconut pastry.

"It was wonderful," Sawyer said. "I meet new people every year."

This year's attendees included Hansel McGee, who came from the Bronx, N.Y., where he is a state Supreme Court justice, as well as Leanore Higgs, the oldest living Harbour Island descendant at 98 years old. The group also was proud to welcome Theresa Manuel to the reunion. Manuel was the first Floridian to ever compete in the Olympics. She competed for the U.S. Olympic Track Team in 1948.

Eva Mather works with straw weavers from North Eleuthera and Harbour Island to produce the high-quality one-of-a-kind grass works that her Bay Street shop offers. Summer and Darrell Johnson's popular grocery store on Dunmore Street, catty corner from Arthur's Bakery. Patricia Mather makes some of the hottest homemade sauces in the world, and bottles them for sale at her shop on Pitt Street. Neeka Higgs displays her straw handicrafts proudly at her Bay Street showcase. Neeka's mother Curline is one of the island's most senior straw weavers.

Heard around the islands:

Passport to Nassau? It is being mooted via the Coconut Telegraph that travel on Bahamasair within The Bahamas may only be possible if you have a document with photo ID. The problem is, the only two documents Bahamians have that feature photos are voters cards and passports. Children, of course, do not have voters cards and many do not have passports. Stay tuned for updates.

Moncur Wins NCAA Title: Bahamian Avard Moncur of Auburn won the men's 400m title in the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships held in Durham NC in a time of 44.72 which set a new national record, a new school record and was the third-fastest time in the world this year.

Bahamian Labour Hero Dies: Sir Randol Fawkes, a prominent labour activist, died at the age of 76 at Lyford Cay Hospital, Nassau, of heart disease. Sir Randol was known as the father of the Bahamian labour movement and helped establish Labour Day as a public holiday.


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Dear Fig Tree

From Sabine Hoffman Naus
One of our favourite spots to eat on Harbour Island is the Dunmore Deli, which is situated on a busy corner and overlooks the daily hub-bub of tourists and residents alike. We mostly like to sit at one of the outdoor tables in the bright sunshine where we enjoy our Italian submarine sandwiches accompanied by tall cold drinks. One such day, as we were eating, the ever-present friendly chickens -- usually about 2 or 3 -- flocked about muttering and clucking and pecking up the crumbs on the ground. I happened to get up from the table for a moment, and in my brief absence one of the chickens flew up onto my vacated chair and promptly began to clean my plate. My husband got a good laugh as he shooed the critter away and told me about it when I returned. It was a good thing I had finished my sandwich, 'cos otherwise the chicken would have done it for me!


From Mandy Barton

For the past year or so, I've been working and "living" in the world of digital music distribution. This is an area of high technology and early adopters, and we speak much of "downloaded music" versus "streaming music" and all the business mumbo-jumbo that surrounds it. And as I sit here at home in California, listening to an audio stream of the Bahamas's own ZNS, groovin' to the sounds of the Bahamas through my computer, I still believe that nothing is better than sipping a Kalik in the moonlight out on the old airstrip in Briland, listening to the sounds of the gentle breezes blowing over the waves, trying to pick up the very same station on a rental minibus's feeble radio. Perhaps the true reward such marvels of technology bring us is the appreciation of the community, due to the many ways we now have at our fingertips to stay connected to each other.

P.S. You to can groove to the sounds of ZNS Bahamas at www.broadcastamerica.com. Go to Music Radio, Go to International, and ZNS is at the bottom of the second page. Kalik not included.

Harbour Island District Center

The Computer Program
Compiled by Briland Modem Staff

Harbour Island Commissioner Rufus Johnson has refurbished the old fire engine house on Gaol Lane [next to the Post Office, the courtroom and police station] as a computer-based community center, which now offers classes in computer instruction, HTML design for the World Wide Web. The community center is wired for Internet access, and Richette Percentie and Adele Farqharson are the instructors in charge. Chief Councillor Harvey Roberts notes that the waiting list for registration for the computer training extends well past January 2001, and that the search is on for a bigger space for the classes. In the meantime, volunteers for onsite afternoon tutorials, weekly classes, and assistance in the technical infrastructure buildout of the community center are invited to note their schedule of availability via the Briland Modem messageboard, for integration into a master schedule for access by local teachers.

Software, hardware and books donations are always welcome, as the program hopes to expand beyond its present site. It's easiest to ship all such supplies to G&G Shipping, 760 NE 7th Avenue, Dania FL 33004, Tel 1 954 920 0306, attention: Richard Monroe. In the meantime, please remember to clearly LABEL all parcels [marked 'parcel' vs. 'manifest'] for the Harbour Island community center to show being addressed to Senior Commissioner Johnson, c/o Customs Officer Wilson, Harbour Island Community Center. Such clear marking will ensure that your donation is imported duty-free. All U.S. donors to the Community Center buildout should inform the Briland Modem Fund of their offering at info@briland.com, as all such gifts will be acknowledged with a receipt for tax purposes, as the Fund is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation.


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Bert Sawyer owns and operates supermarkets in Harbour Island and Rock Sound, Eleuthera, and still manages to set aside a little time for tourism in his role as part-owner of the Valentine's Yacht Club.
 
Eddie Major and Lana Barry celebrate the opening of Eddie's new harbourfront store, "Tropical Treasures and Souvenirs.'.



Briland Fiction

'Talking to Myself Along The Beach '
Jim Reno, Walnut Creek CA

Looking back upon my island companions, asleep on stolen beach chairs, drunk from Kalik and gold rum, I bid them farewell and stumbled alone down the famed pink sand beach of Harbour Island, Bahamas in search of conversation.

The first thing one notices about this beach is that if there is to be conversation, you might as well talk to yourself, because there is no one for miles. Sure, the occasional couple might be walking by now and then, in search of the same elusive conversation I sought, but other than that, no one. Okay, there was one Rasta guy. But, I would rather have exchanged places in life with him, rather than words.

I like walking a little in the water, up to my shins. Dragging my feet a little to give the illusion that I have no destination or place to be at a certain time. Overtly swinging my arms like I did back in the military years ago. Convincing myself that I just don't care who looks at me or what they think, like I do so much back at home. I pondered taking off the only piece of clothing I wore, my swimsuit. But I immediately thought better of that. I'd need a lot more Kalik to feel as anonymous as I wanted to, to blend in with the family jewels on exhibit. So I continued down the beach in search of whatever one looks for in a beautiful place like this with seemingly one thing to offer. Absolute nothingness.

There aren't many shells on this beach. Maybe there are some little ones that the shellhunters haven't yet borrowed for their Bahamian souvenirs for sale on Bay Street. Just a few remaining that visitors to the island hadn't taken home in their bulletproof Samsonite luggage that Mr. Bo Henghy brought over and will gladly take back.

There were a few cool-looking sticks and some sandy, earth-compressed rocks and even one broken sea fan that I left behind, as I certainly had enough of this stuff at home. My wife had quite a large collection growing in our laundry room in California, thinking she'd make some composite craft art piece of our visit to Briland with the scraps she'd found along this beach last year.

She's an avid shell-hunter, complete with her beloved Nassau-straw-market-bought-Rasta-guy-made shoulder bag stowing her treasures as she walks this same beach. She asked me once if she could do this for a living, hunting for shells, providing that I won the lottery. Of course, I said yes. I'd even buy them from her, I said.

It was a warm day with little cloud cover, but the humidity was high, so I walked further into the ocean until I was chest-high and feeling relieved. I dunked my long hair into the clear water and flung it back like a supermodel, making a dinosaur-back with the water. I think they may have called him, "Triceratops." Or something like that. I don't know. It's been awhile since I thought of being like a dinosaur.

Back on the beach, I walked along the shore and after a while glanced back. How long had I been gone? My friends were getting smaller and smaller in my rear-view mirror, just like in "Smokey and The Bandit" when Burt Reynolds was flooring the Trans Am and watching Smokey get smaller in his rear-view mirror. "Bye-bye, baby." He sang. Man, at the time, that was quite a car. And Burt was the biggest actor in Hollywood. Heck, they made three of those movies, and one was with an elephant. An elephant!


The Fig Tree

The Fig Tree is published by the Briland Modem located online at Briland.com, offering community news and information for Harbour Island and North Eleuthera, Bahamas.

I figured that if I kept walking long enough, I'd eventually end up where I started. It is an island, right? The more I walked, the more I realized that it might take at least one sequel for me to finish this walk. This island seems small when you're racing around in your golf cart, looking for all that seems interesting, and things that you just can't miss. But, when you're walking, it's huge. I thought again of the Rasta guy. I should've asked him if he had any pot.

Dumb question, unless he was down on his luck. But isn't that what all Americans do when they're in the Caribbean? Try to lose themselves in some culture that they think revolves around a boredom-lessening substance with the locals? "I mean, really. How can these people exist on this island?" If they think that being Rasta or island local revolves around pot, they just don't get it, do they?

My Kalik-buzz was wearing off. The sun was hot. "Come to the islands." The brochure always reads, "The land of sunshine." If I lived here, I'd have to wear nothing but sandals and shorts. The ground is hard and has surprises here and there. Sandals are a must unless you're on the beach. Shorts should be worn just in case someone comes along, right?

So, how did the islanders wear so much clothing? Okay, they're used to the heat. But, why so much clothing? Adornment? Status? I saw some of the local guys wearing long-sleeved Tommy Hilfiger sweaters in the middle of the day. Well, they probably laugh hysterically at the standard-issue tourist uniform of tank top, bathing-suit, and sandals dangling a camcorder or camera, too, but I chuckled at their attempt to look hip in this weather.

Must be hot being hip. Well, we suffer for the look, right? Then again, they're not on vacation, are they? I remembered seeing visitors to my hometown of San Francisco wearing shorts and tee-shirts, freezing their asses off. They don't realize that San Francisco is so much like London most of the time, cold and foggy, save for a few great days. How could a visitor know how a local dresses? Who cares? That's what Kalik does to you, makes you feel local, while dressing like you're at home.

The cliffs to my left bore fewer structures now. I kept on my trek, thinking to myself that I would really like to go see Gusty and enjoy one of his gin/Kalik concoctions right now. It was then that I remembered the time my wife and I kinda broke the rules governing golf cart rental and actually went off-road in our vehicle. The road got so rough at one point that there was nothing but trees and bush around us on a narrow, hilly dirt road. I high-centered the thing once. One of Martinez's horses poked his head through the bush and laughed a horsey-grin.

My wife had once regrettably turned down a ride from Martinez when my buddy and I were lost on one of the island's skinny, beach-like paths. We had picked up sandwiches for Beth from Angela's Starfish Restaurant, and were in a hurry to find her. But we were a little Kaliky, so we laughed it off and I pushed as she punched the gas. The golf-cart was freed.

At the end of the road we came upon a great estate of Palm Grove, which Gusty had told us was owned by the sister of the same millionaire that owned the world-champion Florida Marlins. And built Blockbuster. Perhaps he also owned the Miami Dolphins, but remember, we were Kaliky at that point. The bush-chopping Haitians were busy slicing back the brush and burning what they had removed. I saw the smoke rise in the air from the multiple piles and wondered what they'd do if a great wind came and blew the fire out of control. Run to the ocean, no doubt. I now did the same.

Some narrow, silvery fish darted by me and made my skin tighten. Their eyes always looking left and right -- thanks to placement by God -- and swimming in packs of three or four, they saw me and just as quickly disappeared. I headed back for the beach and continued my ankle-high water journey. If I got hungry, I could eat them, right? Make my stand right here, on this beach. Never go home. Just stay and wait for the darts. It might take about thirty of them to make a meal for this 220-pounder, though. And, like Chinese food, I'd probably be hungry soon after. I regretted not having brought a fishing pole for some shore casting. But, then again, my matches would be useless after my multiple sabbaticals in the ocean. I tried hard to remember my one day of Boy Scout training, but on that particular day they had talked more about how to recruit new members than how to light a fire with driftwood and catch darty fish with nothing more than a bad attitude and some sandy rocks.

At one point, I believed it was time to return to the 'mainland', and it was then, more than ever, that I wanted to continue on my trek. But, the sun was turning orange and daring me to beat it to the ocean, so I turned around slowly and faced my return. The way back is always farther than the way there, right? You've already seen it all and are tired from your trip, no? I faced the sun, the ocean, and the sand, and turned back, wondering why I had come so far in the first place.

The Fig Tree

The Fig Tree is published by the Briland Modem located online at Briland.com, offering community news and information for Harbour Island and North Eleuthera, Bahamas.

On the way back, the wind picked up a bit and blew my long hair over to my right side. At home, I hate my hair being blown about. Here, I could care less. I enjoyed being touched by the low-lying clouds that reached out to me. I felt the power of different sources of the world. The wind, the water, and the earth. Even the sun gave me the fourth element as it continued to warm my bare skin. At this time, I couldn't even see my companions. But, it's pretty simple to navigate the land at the edge of an island. Maybe it was this simplicity that allowed me to ponder as I wandered, the shore being my guide.

I suddenly remembered the library on Harbour Island. The faded books. The age of them all. The section on the United States being all of a foot wide, and just out of reach of the school children. Perhaps they could grab a book on my country when they were taller. But I found myself wishing that that particular section were ten feet tall, so that only the really good basketballers from the island could snatch one. America cherishes its athletes and pays them well. Normal people, below seven feet tall or so, need not apply.

I wanted very much to be the unpaid librarian. The one that put the lock on the Cuban cigar box full of donations in cash, the one that made sure the windows were weather-tight, and that the front doors would actually dissuade a would-be thief armed with little more than a butter-knife.

I wanted to guard that sacred library, so full of writing, and knowledge. The place that I had first sat and wondered, "Is this the place where I am to make my mark on the world? Is this where I am called to help?" So full of my own self-want to help. As though this place isn't perfect already.

 

Briland fiction

If I were the island dictator, I would tell the children that some kids could learn to clean conch, others could learn to build buildings, some folks would learn the intricate art of plaiting straw, a few would become expert fishermen, others could become teachers, some would learn to build boats again, some could write books, and still others could learn to sew names like "John" or "Steve" in straw hats that no one would actually ever wear but would pay a premium price for, or best of all ... they could learn just how lucky they were to be here in the first place. Maybe, just maybe, if I were in charge, I'd keep Eden just the way it was.

If I were wiser still, I would encourage them to read and learn about the United States as a place that came, saw, and conquered all it could until there was little else but strip-malls and 7-11s in every town across the country. I would tell them what I had learned about the world, and hope to scare them into staying safe, here where God lives. Perhaps that would make them stay here, here in this glorious place.

If I were a realist, I would realize that the reason I donated a computer system to the All-Age School was because I knew that these blessed people were smart enough to reach out and touch the world, and somehow make it better, whatever the risk to all that is immaculate about them and their home.

I realized that the best gift I could possibly give to this enchanted place, its beautiful people, the All-Age School, and Ms. Elodie Ling, the actual librarian at my favorite place, was to leave them alone. Or, better, to be the anonymous visitor on a beautiful beach, on a perfect island, to take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but footprints. And the occasional gift to those to have unknowingly given so much to my wife and me.

I saw a pink-colored shell in the shape of a cone. Granted, it was a small one, but maybe it could bring a dollar to someone if a tourist wanted to bring it home. Perhaps it could adorn the desk pen and pencil set of some Manhattanite. For that, I left it where it lay, in the clearest water I've ever seen on a beach that defies Crayola, Inc.'s best imagination. Harbour Islanders instinctively know that they own something outsiders may never purchase or franchise or incorporate, and that the magic that they hold, that we visit from time to time, will never disappear. The essence of what God gave these people that they know is theirs, is that they smile at each other, and that they hold each other dear. This glorious people: Briland People.

When I finally got back, my friends and my wife were concerned less about where I had been, but more when I would come home. Home was a long way away. Home wasn't Tingum Village, where we were staying the night. Home wasn't anywhere near Gusty's or Queen Conch. Home wasn't even remotely close to Angela's Starfish Restaurant where you must write down everything you want, like a will to yourself. ["What I will leave myself when I die: a conch salad and a Kalik, oh yeah, don't forget the fritters.] At Angela's, she sits behind a window and gives you a pencil and paper, and asks you what you want. Looking back, I should have asked for another pencil, and some more paper.

 

Epilogue

Beth -- my beautiful wife, otherwise known around the island as, "Lovely Miss Beth" -- thanked me for introducing her to something I held dear that has become to her "the simplest, easiest place that anyone would ever want to be in. It's hard to explain: it's a place that I tell others about. I've given pink sand to very few people. From that gift, they've understood me a little bit better and wanted to visit this place I described. I wouldn't pass pink sand to just anyone, you know? Sure you do. A lot of times, I feel I can take them there, because I'm there everyday."

You see, I had been to Nassau and down the Eleutheran chain a few times before, but when we got married, I wanted to take her to the Briland side of The Bahamas. She trusted me. She has not questioned my vision since. [Yeah, right.]

Love and peace to all.

Beth and Jim Reno

Friends of The Bahamas

Support Briland Fiction, located at www.briland.com. All fiction, factual stories, artwork and photography submissions for publication and posting at The Fig Tree can be sent to the Briland Modem via e-mail at info@briland.com, or snailed to 10153 Riverside Drive, Suite 244, Toluca Lake CA 91602 USA.

Bahamas News

Bahamian experiences being shared on Internet, says Hepple
By ANEESAH McDONALD

August 2000 [Nassau Guardian] -- Internet travel is a potential $29 billion industry and unless The Bahamas buckles up and improves the quality of its product, Deputy Director of Tourism Dr. Jim Hepple says the country could be left behind in the very competitive tourism industry. At a luncheon hosted by the Rotary Club of South East Nassau, Hepple revealed that The Bahamas is currently experiencing a huge disparity between the quality of service given and prices charged.

"If we want to continue to be able to obtain the prices we charge, then we have to provide the quality of service and product consistent with these prices," he said. Quality and product issues, he said, have long been of concern to his ministry, and he said that now in the wake of Internet technology, the country needs to acknowledge its deficiencies, and fix them before the world finds out, and begins to talk about them. In fact, according to Hepple, some Internet sites are already posting unfavourable reviews of The Bahamas.

As an example, he gave an excerpt from a comment made by a Disney cruise ship passenger, who opted to stay on board the ship, rather than take a Nassau beach tour, which her husband's coworker had described as "the pits." Such samplings of Internet experiences were what Hepple described as "unedited, honest and human from those who enjoyed their visit and from those who didn't." On one website alone, www.epinions.com, New Providence reportedly had 55 reviews, while Grand Bahama had 32. On another, www. deja.com, Paradise Island had 42 reviews, New Providence had 52 and Grand Bahama had 95. Dr. Hepple invited Bahamians to log on to these websites, and others, to find out what the nations' customers are saying.

Advertising, he said, is once again reverting back to word of mouth and Bahamians can no longer rely on advertising campaigns and public relations to convince people that they are getting value for their money. "They will listen to friends and relatives who have recently visited the destination," he said. "If they don't know anyone directly who has visited, they will go online and look for someone who has." And with 60 million of the 100 million US households set to be logged on by 2003, Bahamas vacation experiences won't be that hard to find. In light of this, Hepple added that it is very important that The Bahamas focus on product improvement, rather than sales, in order to continue to be successful in its number one industry.

The Bahamas: International Financial Centre
By VANESSA C. ROLLE

August 2000 [Nassau Guardian] -- Minister of Finance Sir William Allen addressed the House of Assembly yesterday on The Bill for an Act to Amend the Evidence (Proceedings in other Jurisdictions) Act, 2000 in the House of Assembly, describing it as a "sensible course of action" on the part of the government. Sir William was a member of the delegation that accompanied Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham to Washington to call on the United States government and private sector representatives concerning the OECD's blacklisting of, and USA's financial advisory on The Bahamas' financial services sector. During the meetings, United States officials were adamant that they would only support The Bahamas as an international financial centre if the country fully complies with the new, internationally accepted practices and procedures of the world's major financial centres. Said Sir William: "It is true to say that this bill does not create any precedence, does not plow any new ground in international finance and among other international financial centres.

"It is a sensible course of action for us to take. I believe," continued Sir William, "that after we have all felt very carefully about what the bill does, and what The Bahamas should be doing, we would conclude that this is a sensible course of action for us to take at this time." Sir William further said that The Bahamas has known for some time at some point, that there would be fundamental changes to the operation of offshore financial centres. It was just a matter of time, he said.

Sir William explained that offshore financial centres came into being nearing the end of the 1950's when the Eurodollar (US dollars deposited in or credited to European banks) was introduced. The system expanded with development of the interest equalization tax; exchange control arrangements in the United Kingdom, and a concerted amount of liquidity that was in the international financial system following World War II and the reconstruction of Europe. "It was discovered by circumstances that certain transactions could take place outside the main money centres using the so-called Euro-currency - currency which was outside the realm of its issuing country," he said.

He said that it was also discovered that this provided many opportunities and benefits.

"We all recognized what those benefits were. We talked about them; we boasted about the benefits," he said. Countries attracting Eurodollars had to satisfy certain requirements, including, having: a stable political and social environment; a satisfactory judicial system; no taxes; freedom from exchange control; and easy accessibility by those wishing to use the centre. "These were principally the attributes of the financial centres which made them attractive for this new emerging business," Sir William said. He said as the offshore centres thrived, other features were added to the sector by means of legislative and other initiatives to make them more attractive.

"Then they competed with each other and that competition took the form of identifying legal entities, legislative arrangements and other facilities" that made this new entity more accommodating, he said. Liquidity in the financial services sector escalated by the mid-1970's, Sir William outlined, and offshore centres experienced tremendous growth.

Eventually these centres, or tax havens, came under heavy criticism, he said. "These countries boasted that they were tax havens and that they offered tax savings if you did business with them. In the 1970's, the screams for the industrial countries became more vigorous," to the extent that spies in the form of tax experts began to infiltrate them, said the Finance Minister.

Sir William concluded: "We all recognised that at some point they would have had enough and they could take civil action. We always knew that industrial countries could take action because the banks came from them. We knew also that we could only do business if the industrial countries permitted us to close transactions in their countries. They would prevent the use of their clearing systems. We knew that when they had enough, they were going to do that."

 



Storm Season Update:
Some Satellite Phones Not Yet Ready For Prime Time

Still no definitive word as to when Globalstar satellite service in the Eastern Bahamas will be online and operational. [Current Globalstar satellite coverage extends from Bimini on the west to Nassau. Once the last uplink is activated in Puerto Rico, the entire country should be covered by Globalstar service.] Calls to Globalstar representatives this week showed some offices stating a 15 August start date, with others in the network saying that 1 September was closer to reality. Globalstar currently offers the lowest-cost handhelds in the satellite industry. More comparisons can be found at the Briland Modem telecommunications link at www.briland.com. As it stands, we are receiving word from several Iridium owners that their satellite service remains operational at this time.

 

Briland Fire Brigade
By Robert Arthur, Arthur's Bakery

Were you here on that terrible night of March 6, 1999, when the explosion and fire destroyed Valentine's Yacht Club's Dive Center?

You jumped out of bed, heart pounding, and raced down to the scene . and what you saw filled your heart with dread. The local fire brigade volunteers had quickly brought our 25-year-old fire truck to the scene, but the pump wasn't working, and the hoses weren't well sealed. Water was squirting everywhere except toward the fire. There had been no rains for months, and everything on the entire island was tinder-dry. The entire town held its collective breath as the building flames leapt from the dive shop to the tree of the Albury family home next door. It then occurred to a number of us that the Club's major fuel storage tank had not yet blown up. [We all remembered having seen a film in high school that described the kind of mushroom cloud you get when a large fuel tank blows. Where was the tank? Had its shut-off valves been properly closed the night before?]

As various objects - SCUBA tanks, compression equipment -- in the dive shop began to explode, a number of people began to back away from the scene. One family of renters in particular headed back to their guest house to assemble emergency supplies so that they could evacuate the island. They wanted to be prepared to wade out into the bay in case the whole village went up in flames.

You know the end of the story. Through the grace of God, the wind shifted to blow out toward the harbour, and the volunteers were able to use the contents of the swimming pool to extinguish the fire. The very next day, the sickly smell of smoke pervaded Dunmore Town, but the fire was out, and no one was hurt.

Next time, will we be so lucky? The question has continued to gnaw at many of us ever since that terrible evening. Since the Valentine's event, we have upgraded the water system and installed a network of new fire hydrants at various points around the island as a start at protecting ourselves. But what we could really use is a new fire truck that can store 700-1000 gallons of water, pump water from the sea as easily as it can from the street hydrants, and hold the tools and equipment needed to fight a two-storey building fire. We'd like to have a fire truck in place that will have mechanical parts available when we need them, and that can easily maneuver the narrow streets as well as the unpaved roads of Harbour Island.

Did you know that our major insurers have listed Harbour Island as a Classification A insurance risk, 'A' being the worst and most costly classification?

Thanks to the high concentration of home ownership we currently enjoy, but with no thanks to our lack of access to adequate fire protection today, our fire insurance premiums are among the region's most expensive.

In the meantime, a committee of fire-fighting professionals, local government, volunteers, and friends has researched the special needs of island fire-fighting, and is building a budget designed to support everything needed for a sophisticated fire system that the island can depend on. At this very moment, fire truck agents in the U.S. are searching for a used engine to meet those needs, which we expect it to cost approximately $120,000. We've estimated --another $15,000 annually for fuel and operating expenses, and another $3-5,000 to renovate and maintain a firehouse to secure the truck. We look forward to your assistance in raising the $140,000 necessary.

With the backing of the Harbour Island Police Department, a trained volunteer fire brigade will run the truck as led by Fire Captain Jefferson Johnson. The proposed budget will not only set aside appropriate compensation for Jefferson, but will also include a small monthly stipend for the members of the volunteer brigade. All members of the brigade will be outfitted with VHF/CB radio communications equipment, so that response time will be effectively minimized.

We'd love to have your support moving forward with this effort. Can you help? If you are on-island, we'd be delighted to have you bring your check into the Royal Bank of Canada in person and meet with Bank Manager Keith Wells. You'll be able to see the fire truck the All-Age schoolchildren have drawn to help us track our progress.

If you're currently off the island, but indeed want to offer your support to this necessary initiative, we invite you to mail or wire your contributions to the Briland Modem Fund, Bank of America Account No. 21734 08237, ABA Wire No. 12100035-8, 10153 Riverside Drive, Suite 244, Toluca Lake CA 91602, Tel [outside of California] 1 800 441 6457 [press * for an operator] or [inside California] 818 507 6700 [press * for an operator]. Please note on the check that your donation is being earmarked for the Fire Brigade Fund. Your donation to the Briland Modem Fund is tax-deductible, as the Fund is a recognized 501(3) not-for-profit corporation. A monthly statement listing all activities on the Fire Fund Account will be available at the Royal Bank of Canada, and can be viewed online at the Briland Modem located at www.briland.com. You'll keep abreast of the committee's progress.

There isn't much that we can do to further protect ourselves from hurricanes, but a working fire truck will go a long way toward protecting us from nature's other major threat. Your support will help us all sleep better at night knowing that the protection we need for all of our homes and businesses is now available. And best of all, we'll continue to enjoy the peace and beauty of Harbour Island, this unique and irreplaceable jewel where people of so many lands feel at home.

Best regards,
Robert Arthur, Arthur's Bakery
Jefferson Johnson, Harbour Island Fire Brigade
Keith Wells, Royal Bank of Canada

 

The Fig Tree

The Fig Tree is published by the Briland Modem located online at Briland.com, offering community news and information for Harbour Island and North Eleuthera, Bahamas.

Publisher: Kimberly King-Burns
Editors: Kimberly King-Burns, Mandy Barton
Editorial staff: Karol King-Black, Richard Haskell, Norah Albury, Sharon King, Glenroy Aranha
Reporters: Franklyn Mather, Melissa Bethel

Briland Fiction by Jim Reno

Photography Layout by Mandy Barton
Photography by Sharon King, Jeff Hills, Judie Reynolds, Jacqueline Higgs-Callender
Island artwork by Allen Hermes, Harvey Roberts

-- Your Byline Here --

Let us know about an island topic you've been yearning to write about. If you've ever wanted to be internationally published, now's your chance. Don't worry if you've never written before or if your spelling is a bit rusty. Our editors will help you out. And one day soon, we may even be able to offer pay. Just pick one of the topics at left or a similar one of your own. Buzz rum@briland.com to get started.

How Can You Get The Fig Tree?
The Fig Tree is published on a quarterly basis, give or take a few weeks here and there. Here's how to get yours. Back issues are available free of charge online from our archives at
here. The current issue is posted on-island and is also available via e-mail by subscription. In other words, if you send us a check, you will receive a fresh copy of Fig Tree every few months without having to wait for it to be posted to our free archives online. You can subscribe by using our online subscription form or by picking up a form at Island Real Estate or at Island Services in Dunmore Town. Cost -- $120 per year . Special discount for permanent residents of Harbour Island, $12 per year. Proceeds will help us pay local writers, including students from the All Age School, to encourage their talents. We'd also like to keep donating computers -- and Internet access -- to the computer center, All-Age school, and a few community posts up and down yonder.