Barbados’ Platinum Coast is often swarming with tourists from across the globe. However, smack in the middle of it all, locals have managed to create their very own oasis.
In the community of Spring Garden, off the popular highway leading to the City, is a quaint spot known as Pile Bay.
On Sundays, it can be aptly described as the village where no one starves and where a warm shot of whiskey is never far away.
Instead of millionaires parading in yachts, the small Moses fishing boats reveal the true spirit of a humble, hardworking community, building paradise in their own backyard.
While some people spend hundreds of dollars for access to five-star dining, members of the Pile Bay family bring a small contribution in the form of money or whiskey. It is a simple gesture which opens the door to a full spread of exotic seafood.
“The best day of the week is on Sunday. During the week, [Pile Bay] is fairly dead. Since many of the oldsters died, the youngsters who are around don’t lime much on the beach. They usually lime in the back. But on Sundays, everybody comes around to fish and drink and thing,” said veteran fisherman Jeffrey Leacock.
Although Barbados TODAY arrived well into the afternoon, we learned that the formula for a fulfilling Sunday at Pile Bay involves a lengthy process that starts early in the morning with the fishermen.
“I was going fishing from the time I was 18 and I haven’t stopped yet. I am almost 66. I’ve been fishing all my life,” said Leacock.
The proud seaman said it’s a dying trade which he would like to see revived.
“They aren’t many young fishermen down here. We did it when we were young. We used to go out with the oldsters, and when they died off we took over. But now, these youngsters that stirring nowadays don’t like anything like that,” he confessed.
Although fishing hasn’t quite caught on, Leacock said one of the more important traits inherited by the younger generation is an understanding of the need to live in harmony with friends and neighbours.
“Down here is cool . . . . You don’t hear about much fighting and quarrelling down here. If a fellow has an argument, he argues and then it is done. That is why so many people come down here,” he said, smiling.
“There are some people that come down here and say ‘wait, I never came down here before’ and they fall in love with this place. Every Sunday we see a new fellow down here.”
The lure of Pile Bay on Sunday, however, is about more than just friendship and camaraderie.
By early afternoon, hands are swiftly cleaning and seasoning fish or peeling and cutting vegetables to satisfy growling stomachs and watering mouths on the beach.
“We have lobster, sea-cat, pot fish and I don’t know what else,” said Omar Worrell as he stirred a large pot perched atop a small open fire on the beach.
After boiling and roasting their “Cohobblopot”, which includes any combination of fresh fish, conch, lobster, sea cat, okras, plantain and green banana, the best party of the day is literally moments away. It is the time when the community’s egalitarian spirit shines brightest. People from all walks of life gather around, uninhibited by their various professions and backgrounds as they happily eat from the same pot.
Loud, unrestrained laughter bellows from deep within in an authentic celebration of freedom. The blend of music, drinks and flavour combines with the calm ocean and setting sun for an atmosphere like no other.
Another man, who would only identify himself as The Original Plug-in, described Pile Bay as “a wonderful place every weekend”.
“Saturday and Sunday and during the week you can get your fish and relax. But on Sunday is the real action . . . . No bad behaviour around here. We always enjoy ourselves. We always represent and respect one another.”
“Once you come down here, ya got to live. Anybody could come down here and plug in. Bring what you have and have some food,” he added.
Just a stone’s throw away, a group of mature men usually gather for a discussion about anything ranging from women to politics and sports.
On Sunday, one of the discussions focuses on national pride, which the men believe is being overshadowed by the Yuletide season.
“When I was a child, Independence meant a whole lot to me. But now, Barbados is straying away from Independence and Christmas comes before Independence,” said Steve Smith.
“From October, November I hearing Christmas music, but I am not hearing any Independence music. I am not hearing any Wendy Alleyne on the radio anymore, I am not hearing The Draytons on the radio anymore. I am hearing bare Christmas music now and we’re in November . . . . . I am still an Independence person, but Barbadians are straying away and it’s not good.”
David Alleyne, known by the guys as The Godfather, said a major part of their culture that isn’t under threat is the almost religious way in which they unflinchingly flock to Pile Bay on Sunday.
“It’s like something to help you get rid of your troubles . . . . It’s getting better and better because we have younger people coming through . . . . My favourite thing is having a good drink and eating some fish. We have all of the necessary things down here,” he said.