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The Simple Beauty of Buying Fish at the Pier

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The pier at Tarpum Bay is a lively scene on good weather days at at 3 p.m., as the fishermen come back from their daily outings. It’s a ritual that has gone on since people settled in south Eleuthera which has been around for over 250 years! Tarpum Bay is one of the most photographed and picturesque of all of the Bahamian settlements. It’s hard to believe that it was a pineapple-shipping center in the late 1700’s. The classic old architecture, bright colors and sparkling waterfront make a destination must-see for the true out-island cultural traveler.

Yesterday Lynnie made a trip to the pier for grouper, salmon and lobster tails. We parked across Bay street by an old rusted out concrete mixer and walked over stopping in the covered, wooden open air structure to chat with the old folks wiling away the hours. There we saw Sam Culmer, now nearing 75 and our friend of many years. Sam is from Rock Sound and came to the attention of Edgar Kaiser and Juan Trippe at the end of the 50’s as they prepared to develop the old and now defunct Rock Sound Club, Winding Bay Club and Cotton Bay Club. They sent him to Austria to train as a chef and to become a restaurant manager. We first met Sam as the maître d’ at Cotton Bay where we later stayed and went to dinner two or three times each visit until it closed. Sam, ever enterprising, could see the end coming and opened his own restaurant and lodging accommodation in Rock Sound, called “Sammy’s,” which he continues to operate with his wife and daughters. He’s done us many favors over the years and is of the old-Bahamian high service tradition. He was glad to see us and we enjoyed watching him smile and flash that golden tooth of his.

We walked out to the pier and the fishermen were at their tables pulling fish out of baskets and coolers, hacking away with blood and parts flying about in what is, in fact, a very highly structured process. There was a mom from Canada there with her little ones, who were somewhat horrified. As they worked, they also were enjoying their beer, chatting with the local ladies and laying out their catch. Little boys were diving off the pier and line fishing. All the while the old folks kept talking away, oblivious to the activity.

Our turn came and I placed our order and had Mr. Hunt (a descendent of generations of Hunt family fishermen….most of whom are deaf) filet the fish which he did quickly and with the deftness of an impresario. He placed the order in Baggies and had his wife make change for us. All the while he was working he was chain smoking, had a tattered Bob Marley shirt on and a hat with the “Glee” logo (no kidding).

As we drove away I saw several tourists experiencing this for the first time – the thrill and awe of a truly authentic experience in an idyllic setting. Don’t miss this. Also, if you want to really “cool the jets” go to the pier and watch the sunset with the old, local native folks. It just doesn’t get any more peaceful.

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