Bars. Love em or hate em, you’ll sure as eggs find yourself in one if you visit the Caribbean for even the shortest layover. You may not know you’re in one, it may look like a shop, a grocery store or a post office, and sell all manner of unwanted items until you spy those tell-tale bottles of dark stuff tucked away on a dusty shelf. Rum to you and I, often it’s clear, or “white” but don’t let that wholesome innocence fool you. Oh no, always treat the white one with the utmost respect in fact, otherwise you’ll wake up later, wondering why. Yes, the rum shop is ubiquitous, multi-facetted, more plentiful than churches some would opine, and there are lots of those to admire.
A bar on a beach people like the sound of too. Sort of double your money, two for the price of one. I once lived close to Mullins beach bar in St Peter, Barbados, the only 24 hour bar in its earliest incarnation and accessible from the south in the days before traffic, not that I was a regular, though it was nice to know it was there, a neighbourly comfort as it were. Bang on a great roadside beach a well, it’s changed over the years, things do, more restaurant than bar for a spell, but the essence of a great place to relax remains. Location is all.
The Owl Bar commands another timeless spot and is aptly named, in one of Grenada’s finest, the Flamboyant hotel, overlooking the southern end of Grande Anse beach and prides itself on convivial late night opening. I knew a chap once who moored a boat bar offshore at Mullins in a failed venture to add the maritime perspective to Bim’s bar scene, but perhaps only in Jamaica, to repeat a well worn phrase, would they ever consider going one step beyond. Let alone actually doing it.
Riding the swell down Jamaica south west, no surfboard just outboard, I was reminded not long back of that other Jamaican maxim “the Jamaica you find depends on the company you keep”. Someone had mentioned “a bar with a difference”, so I thought why not, seen a few already, what’s one more? Far offshore from Black River did seem a bit extreme, I mused, scanning a foam flecked horizon for signs of life, then suddenly a bizarre spindly edifice of driftwood, flotsam and bamboo loomed afore. More a rustic vision of a seaborne “wicker man”, it’s an extraordinary piece of construction, nailed and pieced together on stilts atop a narrow rock shoal in a matter of weeks--- the result of the fertile, some would say damaged, imagination of Floyd a local fisherman.
The Pelican Bar he’s called it, owing to its most regular customer so far out at sea. Colleagues advised him against, exhorting that “him lost him mind” but Sally Henzell at Jakes hotel actively encouraged him. Yep, this place was definitely different. No sign of a barman for a start, least of all a beer on a scorching morning, as we clambered up some rickety ladder. “Jussa small hinconvenience sah, no problem”, whispered the boatman. Jeees...uz.....hey, he’s right though, this is Jamaica, chill out capital, miles from land, blazing sun, no drinks, something will turn up. Incredibly they did, quite a while later.
It was hard to leave, not least because you couldn’t, the sort of place where you never know you may be gurgling your last, should a rogue wave come rolling in. Someone suggested we should stay overnight, and not entirely in jest. I glanced inland at a storm billowing in over the Santa Cruz Mountains and nay..........terra firma’s best.
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