Sunken Ships

Kyle Runs Solo: Post 3 of 3 

Written by: Kyle Hawkins

Now Max2 had never been sailing really. I had taken him out on the lake on a Buccaneer 18 once and he had since tried sailing a Sunfish on his own without much success. But we have known each other since we were young teens and had grown up together thick as thieves. We had lived together a couple of times while snow-bumming out West and we both consider each other brothers in the truest sense. Some of the adventures and mis-adventures we had and went through as kids certify this title as irrevocable and as it goes with good friends and some family, it never matters how long since you last spoke- you never missed a beat, maybe just a story or two. 

He arrived at the airport only slightly delayed due to weather; leaving behind sub-zero degree temperatures for the comfortable mid 70’s weather we were having in Nassau was easily done and he was in high spirits. I began to introduce him to some of the nuances of traveling here and we instantly were having a good time. His goals were diving. Him and I had shared a few diving and snorkeling adventures in the FL Keys and now that we were both actually certified, we had our sights on wreck diving. I had found us 5 wrecks that were under 65’, which is perfect diving in my opinion and only had a day to kill before the weather to move the 15 nm west to Cliftons Bay became available. We sight saw and toured downtown Nassau, Max2 actually wanted to see the forts, which I enjoy so the day was easily spent. We enjoyed some fresh Conch Salad, and this time I remembered to bring crackers to go with it- something more than one local commented they had never seen before, which I find a bit odd, since that is the way Ceviche is served all through Central America and at many restaurants. Conch salad is really just conch ceviche anyway it seems. 

This was to be his first adventure aboard a full size sailing yacht. His first offshore sail, and his first time sailing with me now that I had a little experience. We went to the fuel dock and filled up on water and bought 5 gallons of diesel. We had a great time with the guys selling fuel, who intimidated Max2 with shark stories concerning some of the wrecks we planned to dive. They knew me on sight by now and we have a good rep-or going. We cleared harbor control and motorsailed out past the cruise ships, everything for Max2 was so new, he had lots of questions and took lots of photos and we had a marvelous time talking about everything. Once we were out into the tongue of the ocean, the swell still a bit large for a first timer, at 3-5 ft with a few double ups thrown in of course, Max2 showed some uneasiness, but never faltered and kept plenty calm. He was a great help on the sail over and seemed to enjoy the trip after we settled in a bit.  Sirocco whisked us along and we even surfed a few times at over 9 knots, which Max2 seemed to enjoy the rushing of it all. Before we knew it, it was time to turn in towards the entrance. I had chosen to come into the first entrance to the bay, on the north side, as the swell was less intense on the lower NW edge of the island. I left the mainsail up thinking we could motor sail in, but it became quickly apparently that it needed to come down as all it was doing is flogging in 15-20 knots of wind. I left Max2 at the helm and went ahead to pull it down and although we swerved a bit on our course, once the main was down it was an easy run up to anchor. We both seem to feel good about the entire run down, me having grown confidence in my new shipmate and him some confidence in the boat on the sea. We really looked forward to our dive the next day. I needed to go over the side and look at the anchor and Max2 lost no time in joining me, we spent the next hour or more exploring the sandy bottom of the bay. Came up, boiled some water for our rinse, and enjoyed a warm shower/rinse off. 

Danielle and I have used a fresh water shower system devised by Hal & Margarette Roth for our entire boat life, its an all black (to block UV) commercial air pump pressurized chemical sprayer that we put a kitchen dish rinsing spray head on the end of its hose. We have had it 6+ years and it has only needed a little lube and a new hose thus far. Warm pressurized water makes you feel so much fresher than a sponge bath. The entire shower goes something like this: first attach the short stainless shower hose with valved (on/off) garden “shower” sprayer head to the electrically pressurized salt water outlet in cockpit footwell and tie the spray head up under the boom to form your endless pressured shower head. Next, either jump overboard (preferably off the bowsprit in a backflip motion) or simply turn on the garden shower and have a complete shower- soap, shave, rinse, whatever. Last, pour the boiling kettle of water into the 2/3 full chemical sprayer and pump until fully pressurized- enjoy a hot rinse in fresh water and maybe a second soaping if needed, depending upon how long you have sustained without washing. It leaves you feeling as clean as any shower I have ever had ashore. Agreeably not as convenient, but just as effective. 

We made a big dinner of lackeis. My Jewish friend Max1 taught me how to make them, they are a traditional food of the culture, essentially a fried potato pancake and typically eaten with applesauce and sour cream: amazing. We both are early to bed early risers, so turned in after dinner. We were up plenty early, but didn’t have anywhere to be until after 10am (when the sun is highest). So we just hung out at the boat catching up and made a huge breakfast of egg sandwiches. 

The first dive was called Tears of Allah and is an big tug boat sunk for a James Bond movie along with a plane in the same spot. We really enjoyed it. Stuarts Cove is a large dive charter outfit on the south western end of New Providence and they have sunk many wrecks and done huge amounts of work to keep this area clean and diver oriented. We went back to the bay and after putting down the anchor immediately went snorkeling nearby in the dink. Upon our return from snorkeling we decided to go on a mission to fill our two dive tanks at Stuarts Cove dive shop. We loaded up the dinghy with the tanks/cart and set off for the shore. We had not walked long with our thumbs up when a nice young couple stopped and picked us up. There is only one road on this end of the island, so hitching rides is very easy. They were headed right past Stuarts and so dropped us off. We got the tanks filled without an issue, but found that renting a second set of tanks for tomorrow was not really available. It was the typical situation of “some moron before you ruined it for everyone, sorry” these types of situations are very prevalent in the USA, as it seems everything must be idiot proof these days and cater to the lowest common IQ denominator, but it made me a bit sad to run into it here in the Bahamas. One of the things I loved about Central America was there was no warning labels anywhere for anything- so nice. Here in the Bahamas its a mixed bag, depending on the origin or intended market of the product. 

Now that our tanks were full, we were talking with the compressor technician about the idiots/jerks that ruined our chances of renting some tanks when a big tall Bahamian approached us asking if we were ready to leave- leave? “Yeah, the bus is leaving soon and I take you back”, “we are on a yacht at anchor in Cliftons Bay”, “no problem mun- I go right by there”. So we wheeled our tanks over to the bus and got aboard. It was a short ride and we told the driver (who had never in his life been diving as he was afraid of sharks) he could drop us off at on the side of the road, “no mun, I want to go see the water, I will bring you right down to the beach” and so he did. We barely walked 50’ on the entire way back. It was a great adventure filled with friendly people and laughter- as usual. 

The next morning we were discussing what to have for breakfast when I mentioned putting eggs in sweet pepper rings and since Max2 had never had that before, that’s what he cooked us, with the rings stuffed into sandwiches of buttered and mayo covered toast with cheese, epic. Our first dive was at a large and famous wreck called: Ray of Hope. They bait/feed sharks at the wreck site and there is a very health wall dive nearby as well, so this dive was full of anticipation and not only did it fulfill, it succeeded. By far the best dive I have ever had. Big sharks, big wrecked ship, lots of fish and sea life, super huge wall- falling almost 2,000’ and overall just an awesome experience. The Ray of Hope is about 300’ long and nerf sharks live under it, while Reef, Mako and Black Tip cruise around it in case of chumming/feeding. We only encountered Reef sharks of 6-8ft in size close in by us, but in the distance the big sharks estimated at 8-12’ were on patrol and clearly visible. We were careful to dive shoulder to shoulder or shoulder to hip in tight formation whenever we were out in the open in order to seem as large as possible. These sharks deal with divers every day the conditions allow diving and often multiple times a day, so they are very desensitized to our presence, and non aggressive, but this defensive diving technique also gives you and your dive buddy some confidence since we are just a team and not a group. We also had a pre-dive refresher on our hand signals and came up with a plan of action in case of aggressive behavior: essentially a back to back ascent to 20’ and then a side swim of locked elbows back to the boat allowing us to always keep our eyes open to all available approach angles and legs/arms in a subsequent defensive position for each other. Sharks, like any natural predator, want an easy lunch, not a fight, and while none of this was really necessary on this dive, sound thought and practice none the less. Lots of high fives after the dive. 

We sailed 2 miles over to Stuarts Cove private canal and anchored outside, rowed Lucy ashore and got our tanks filled. We were the talk of the town to say the least, rowing up in 7’ Lucy with dive tanks to fill. Everyone, especially the tourists were saying something. “That little boat is SO cute” is the most common thing I hear about that boat. But as usual it was a simple thing and off we went with another full set of tanks. We next dove the “Willaurrie” wreck, with is actually 3 wrecks right next to each other. One being an awesome classic tugboat laying slightly on its side so you can see the entire thing, like a model on display. There is also some very awesome reef striations all around, which were fun. Another great dive, even though we only found 2 of the 3 wrecks on the chart, we couldn’t have been happier. Our anchorage was only 10-15 minutes away and we were still riding high, to cheers a cold drink and watch the sunset. Dinner was good, but not memorable enough to know what we ate. We were able to put everything away dry before bed and sleep came easy. We were sailing early the next day, but into headwinds and so we had the boat buttoned up tight in preparation.

We were underway before 7 and had a somewhat slow, but comfortable sail back to Nassau. There is a tidal stream that runs all along the edge of the island in the tongue, bringing water from the deep (3,000’) “Tongue of the Ocean” on and off the banks which are very shallow (10-30’). Sirocco is also not a hull design that points well, her strengths are carrying capacity and motion comfort, but motoring is so lame on a sailing ship, so we took our time and enjoyed ourselves. Max2 also enjoyed the windvane “I don’t understand why every boat wouldn’t have one of these”.  He says to me, “so fricken great.” I heartily agree of course, Danielle and I being windvane worshippers ourselves. On our way south, Max2 and I hand steered, the conditions and length of the trip were so that we didn’t really need the windvane. But no human can steer so well into the wind as a proper windvane- every lift, every drop, perfectly accounted for, always sailing the ship as efficiently as the hull allows- endlessly without fatigue or a moments delay. A big thank you to the men who contributed so much to sailing and brought such a device into existence. 

After arriving into Nassau, Max2 and I anchored up right in front of the ashram, we actually had a time of it too. Which is unusual for Sirocco. But Nassau harbor is famous for being poor holding and full of debris. So over the side I went and picked us a nice spot, we set the anchor well since I would be laying to it for a couple weeks and the usual cold fronts were coming. Then we went to visit Danielle on her day off and spent time on the beach. Max2 and I had not spent any time on the beach yet and its a good beach. We enjoyed our time with Danielle, especially me as you may imagine. Toured the Ashram and laughed a lot with the three of us sharing stories of the things that have been happening in our lives. We enjoyed a vegan dinner together at a picnic table in the garden of the Ashram and afterwards said goodbye to Danielle so she could do her karma yoga. 

Another great day and Max2 was leaving the next one. So we he packed up most things and got kinda ready. He was trying not to forget anything, a curse it seems all humans suffer from. The next morning we cleaned the boat out and I went ashore with him and we had lunch at a local restaurant, it had the most peculiar decor, all done in neo-modern black and white, everything black and white. But the food was good and I got him on his bus with a full stomach and snacks in his bag for the plane ride back to freezing cold WI. He missed his daughter terribly and was very excited to see her, so the cold didn’t seem to phase him in the least. We exchanged a big hug and off he went. I went into a shop I was familiar with and bought a couple of little ginger buns made locally that I am quite partial to and started my walk home to the empty boat. 

The next few days I did all sorts of projects around the boat, stuff I had wanted to do before we left FL, but had been to busy living and loving the moment to deal with. I reached out to a few friends on the phone and generally just enjoyed some quiet time. Years ago, time alone was hard for me, I would put myself into dark and brooding moods and languish around in a mild depression. These days I enjoy it, I like me and my life and I get myself into all sorts of wonderful tangents, allowing my mind freedom to explore and be creative. Unfortunately my design computer is not in working order right now, it has suffered some sort of BIOS (basic input/output settings) malfunction and so I took to sketching on paper and making notes- something I have been doing for many years. 99% of the time these ideas never make it past this stage, sketching/notes finds all sorts of holes and unusable parts in them, but I find this free thinking and problem solving so enjoyable and positive that I always encourage myself. For example, one million seconds is 12 days and one billion seconds is 31 years- the lottery is 5 billion to one and while I have no doubt I may spend my entire life on the these ideas and never get an idea of monetary success, that is not the point for me and I’m happy just thinking my way through them. 

I then spent 5 days at the ashram, living in a way very close to how Danielle had been for weeks. It was great fun to share meals together, meet her friends, and learn about her journey a little. I then came back to the boat 3 days before her return and spent a lot of time cleaning. Max1 and Max2 had quite graciously helped me clean the boat thoroughly before each of them had left, but this was bigger than that. I got everything ready for Danielles return and our departure. I was very ready to leave Nassau harbor for good. It had treated me as well as it could, but my patience for the place was used up. We were to sail very soon after she came back to the boat. 

I picked her up on a Sunday, we came home and laughed and talked as she unpacked, we went grocery shopping and get the boat ready to leave. The next morning we got water/fuel and sailed for the Exumas! Off on another adventure. 

 

 

 

Eleuthera

Kyle continues from last post..

A staging anchorage is one of my favorite cruising tricks. Topping off our tanks and moving the 5-6 miles to Rose Island were the only things we had to do that day, nothing rushed- lots of time to talk and laugh with the locals at the fuel dock. This move saves (stages) us at least an hour ahead on our passage and prevents any harbor or traffic delays in getting underway the next morning; as well as getting the boat and crew into “Passage Mode” on the sail over. We also took a specific route into the anchorage that made for a longer trip into it, but gave us the opportunity to lay a GPS track and get our eyes on the path through the reefs we would be taking in the dark the next morning.

We went ashore for some fresh coconuts, came back to the boat and dined on a big meal. Set up everything for our breakfast, and turned in early.

Danielle and I were first introduced to Max1 at the Municipal Marina in Downtown St. Peterburg. Danielle had valiantly helped me get our first boat and home together down to FL from WI. A 1972 C&C 27 MK2 (tall rig). I had spent over 2 years revitalizing her in WI and thanks in no small part to the help and support of loved ones she had arrived in FL and was eventually launched at Salt Creek and motored into her slip right across the alley from Max1’s 1970 C&C 27 MK1. We never really spoke until Danielle left to hike the Appalachian trail and I dinghied over one afternoon with a couple beers in my hand, across the alley to make his acquaintance. Although he admired my choice to row over rather than walk and enjoyed the beers, our first meeting put him on edge slightly due to my incessant questioning, a habit that is no better today than it was then, but after some reassurance from a mutual friend, we quickly became close friends, sharing a passion for self sufficient exploration of the earth under sail. For those of you who have been following Danielle’s writing faithfully over the years (thank you) but you will remember our adventure aboard his 40’ Dufour A9000 through the western Caribbean, Panama Canal and up to Costa Rica. So Max1 and I were no strangers to sailing together and we split no hairs about our goals for his trip.

We woke at 4:30, much to Max1’s chagrin, but he was a good sport and we had eaten a big meal of oats and GORP (good old raisins and peanut butter) and with coffee in our mugs, we upped anchor at 5 and were headed out in a nice breeze. We motorsailed through the reef (1 mile travel) before turning east and pointing for Eleuthera- 45 miles to go. We were pinched up right from the beginning, but not so hard that we couldn’t sail happily along. We had good conditions and made good time arriving off the coast without trouble in less than 9.5 hours. We had aimed high on purpose, it gave us faster sailing and the 5 miles north of our intended anchorage of Hatchet Bay allowed us to survey the entire “climbing zone”.

During our survey Max1 set his sights on a large spire standing alone and about 60’ tall. Despite the fading afternoon light (we had a lovely sunset view by the way), we anchored up in the open sea and dinghied in under oars. Max stood upon the back of the boat and grabbed the wall “Let me know when” I said as we moved in the swell, he said “Ready” and lifted off the dinghy and I quickly paddled out from the wall and took up position as amateur photographer. He was delighted and climbed 30-40 ft and stood to one side on a big ledge, proud of the climb and nervous of the jump. It took him some time to get ready to leap off the ledge, but landed safely enough. I personally found it funny that the climb was of so little effort but the jump gave him such pause. For me it would have been the opposite.

After such an unexpected early success we motor to our anchorage sighting new climbing lines along the way for tomorrow and feeling quite happy with the trip already. The next day we climbed in the morning, Max1 finding another 2-3 routes up the walls on the coast. Then snorkeled some off lying boulders, having forgotten his mask, Max1 and I took turns sharing mine. I sighted a big ray, which he missed, but he got the best sunlight, while I found lots of cloud cover each time I descended.

We then came into anchor and decided to make a shore excursion and see if we could get a look at a popular big cave near the anchorage aptly named Hatchet Bay Cave. We dinghied in towards a rocky shore and threw our anchor astern as we came near, we then tied the anchor line so the boat was just in reach of the dock, after unloading both of us and backpack (we carried lots of flashlights, water, some snacks), we then walked the bow line of the dinghy up the shore. This walking up the shore puts the anchor rode at an ever increasing angle and subsequently makes the line to short for the boat to reach the shore. You then tie the line off on a tree/rock/whatever and the boat is safely out of reach of the shore and left to float serenely on its own, the anchor keeping your dinghy out of reach of the rocks, jetty, and whatever other floatsam you might wish to avoid.. Or curious walker by’s as well.

We walked out to the main highway “Queens Highway” and stuck up our thumb as we walked and not long after a nice lady stopped and offered to take us to the road. She shared some local advice and lively conversation with us for the 5min ride and then we said our goodbyes and walked down the dirt road. There is a sign on the highway that says “CAVE”. We had read the entrance was not easy to find, with some people complaining rather loudly, but that turned out to be laughable. There is a culdasac of mowed grass/brush and the cave entrance is the only path leading off the circle, it made me think that those who did not find it, should not have found it. Admittedly, the path is not big and a bit obscured by grass and brush, but it seemed pretty obvious to us.

The cave is vast, far larger than we would have ever guessed. It’s absolutely beautiful with some very large formations and interesting creatures. Like hermit crabs feeding on guano and some tiny little bats chittering. Few roaches, but not too many, I imagine the hermit crabs keep their population under control. Sadly the entire place is covered in spray paint signature graffiti, not the incredible art of an inner city, but just poorly done names and scribbles- zero talent vandalism. Many of the signatures were from visiting yachts and that particularly broke my heart. It is my opinion that every human has a responsibility to the next generation, but we vagabonding sailors especially have a responsibility to our cruising community to always be on good behavior because like it or not, we are all judged together. They say the US is the land of the free and in a business sense, we certainly are beyond compare, but due to our population density and subsequent number of visitors to these types of special places, as well as our entrepreneurial spirit, a cave of this caliber would certainly require a fee and be restricted in the US. You would have to come during specific hours and if you didn’t need a reservation, you would certainly need to pay for a guide and only be allowed to see a small portion of what Max1 and I enjoyed. But in the Bahamas as with so many of these developing counties, true freedom is at hand! We showed up just before dark, and were free to roam through every nook and cranny, touch (carefully/lightly with one finger) anything we like and generally had no-one and nothing to stand in our way of experiencing the full glory of this natural wonder. An amazing experience. After we made our way through the entire cave, you end up standing below a large hole in the ground with a random and somewhat untrustworthy looking rope ladder as your only way out. Unless you want to walk all the way back.. So we did a riggers safety check, chugging our weight down upon the lines individually, testing their strength and feeling satisfied, we climbed to the trail above to enjoy second sunset over the ocean and descending farm fields before us.

After hitching our way back to town, I had a beer at a local bar while Max1 smoked the local hand rolled cigars and watch the basketball game. Everyone is incredibly friendly and genuinely curious of us and we subsequently enjoyed ourselves fully. Before leaving we enquired around about where to have dinner and set off with some vague and seemingly random instructions. Based upon passed experience we knew we were most likely looking for someone’s house with some extra tables/chairs in the front room. We asked a couple other folks, stopped in at someone’s personal front yard BBQ, which they have all set up right against the road on impressively large double length drum grills and finally found our destination. We both had fish, but of different types and the helpings were generous and very tasty for a modest amount. The food is not as inexpensive and Central America, being that so much of the Bahamas is comparable or even more expensive than typical US prices, but once you get away from the cruise ships, it at least becomes reasonable again. We carried the table and chairs back inside the house, as we had brought them onto the porch for our dinner, said our thank you’s and headed back to the bar for a football game Max1 wanted to see “at least one quarter”. As we came in we were offered our old pair of seats and it looked like someone was sitting in one them, but we were encouraged and not 5 minutes later someone came to get the can of soda from the spot- it certainly was were he was sitting! We got up to move and he would hear nothing of it, in one sip, he finished his can of soda and walked over to a new seat. The prodominant way of drinking at this establiment was to spend $6 dollars on a small bottle of your choice and then simply buy cans of soda as you need them. This man said “I am finished! I am finished! (Holding his empty bottle) sit, sit, sit!” So we sat and enjoyed the game, me with my beer and Max1 with his cigar. The lines of loyalty to the football teams was of course a great discussion amongst the watchers and people were a bit surprised I had none. But while I played the sport quite a bit when I was young, I have no interest in watching it and consider most of it a bit over the top and dramatic. A little to “Reality TV” for me. Amazing athletes to be sure- but the game is presented in a way I can’t handle. So many breaks, so much dead time and the ads- ugh. But the reality is that I don’t really follow any sports at all. I sometimes follow a few offshore sailboat races online, I like the solo sailing speed record attempts of ocean crossings, or any of the solo round the world racing, especially their machines. Unless you’re a sailor its hard to understand or even really guess at the mental stamina and discipline to race a sailboat for 40-60 days straight, alone, in one of the harshest environments on earth. Feeding yourself, sleeping, weather routing, repairs, sail changes and of course keeping the machine moving as fast as you can at all times. I also still like snowboarding comps, or trials bikes, some of the off-road racing, things where the majority of the participants are underpaid, overworked and generally speaking entrepreneurs of their own creation- you know, real sports of passion and sacrifice- no whiners and very little glamour. Worthy of admiration in my book.

Anyways, sitting at the bar with (for me) not much to do, we were soon approached by a believer of the good book who wanted to have an in-depth discussion on the spot about our creation belief mythology. He had had a couple drinks and I expected this to go badly in a hurry, but on the contrary he was very open to listening and took what we had to say seriously and so we in turn gave him the same respect and a fun and engaging discussion was had by all.

Max1 felt as though he had seen enough of the game and was so we hiked back to the dinghy in order to go to our floating home. We both agreed it had been a complete success of a day!

When it comes to anchoring, Danielle and I have taken on the style of the high latitude sailors: we carry a our “storm” sized anchor as our main bower and use it every time we anchor and so do not carry a second bow anchor nor an anchor stored in the bilge. Our main anchor is a true “storm size” about 2-3 steps above the manufacturer recommended size for our boat. It’s always ready to roll as we never remove it, as is our kedge anchor(stern anchor), also kept ready to throw into the dinghy anytime we need to point our bow into the swell or pull ourselves off the dirt. Both anchors have 300’ of rode, the bower all 3/8” chain, the kedge some small chain and 300’ 3/4” nylon. So if we needed it, say to anchor offshore of a challenging entrance for the tide, we could easily rig 600’ for our bower or disconnect the kedge and run the line ashore for a med-moore. The stern rode is kept figure-eighted in our starboard cockpit bench and the bow anchor has a dedicated anchor locker. The point of this digression is to help you understand that with this configuration it free’s up one entire anchor locker and Sirocco being a classic design has spacious anchor lockers, so we keep a pair of folding bikes in the spare one. Since the oracle (weather app) said it was blowing 20+ knots all day and our morning coffee in the cockpit agreed with the oracle, Max1 and I got the bikes out and went ashore to explore. We planned to bike all the way to the glass bridge, about 8 miles each way. Before we left we made veggie sandwiches for lunch and stocked up heavily on snacks/water. We anchored the dink in the same style described above, but this time off the commercial stone crab peer, were we met Ralph. Ralph took us to the refrigeration building, gave us tour of the facility and sold us some fresh stone crab claws at a generous price. He was proud of the sustainability of Stone crab and the safety and efficiency of their current process. We immediately put a couple in our sandwich cooler and with a large amount of anticipation regarding lunch, peddled off. About 4 miles into our trip we stopped at “Surfers Beach” for lunch. It was a very enjoyable and beautiful spot, a wonderful offshore bar break and a small point break were the Atlantic Ocean swell could curl and blow off its endless energy. There are some hardcore “leatherback” locals who have assembled basic huts on the beach from floatsam garbage with plenty of good seating. At lunch I began to notice, I was very fatigued and had a strong general malaise. Max1 had arrived with some sort of cold brought down from the north land, but had felt he was not contagious. This proved unlikely as what followed for me was easily predicted by him based on his recent experience. We turned back and biked homeward due to my fatigue. We made a nice long rest stop primarily for me to pull myself together, at a “7 to 11” gas station/general store for Klondike bars and local people watching. By the time we got back to the boat I was basically delirious with fever and fatigue, completely overtaken and wiped out. I bundled up against the 75f degree (freezing!) temperatures and laid upon the settee moaning my agony between naps while Max1 cooked us a dinner of Annies Mac-n-cheese. After napping for a few hours before, I pulled myself together to joyously fight my way through some claws and then collapsed again while Max1 did all the dishes and cleaning up as well- a real trooper! I told him “ Thank you so much my friend!” His response “ahh, only fair for bringing this plague upon your house” -cracked me up.. Although, that may have been true, its hard to know the gestation period of an cold. The Mayo Clinic says “1-3 days” and it had been two since his arrival, but I would have encouraged him to come cold or not anyway and so did not cast blame or complain to him for it.

The next day we went on a dinghy mission, Max1 climbed 3 new routes and even snorkeled a bit. I was dinghy support man in my pants, long sleeve and sun hat – mid 80’s temps. We then went back and moved Sirocco north along the coast, stopping along the way for climbs, keeping the dink lifted up along side while underway. We sailed the entire way, sailing on and off the anchor as we went along. I made one climb up a short and simple ledge to gain the top and sat down to enjoy the view. We also discovered a sea cave and this was the first time in my life that I caught the fire and wonder of treasure hunting. The near vertical limestone coast of Eleuthera has been hollowed out right at tide level to make a nice undercut, as you might have seen in some of our photos. Well there must have been a cavity of very soft rock, or perhaps at one time a descending rain stream, because as we laid low in the dinghy to push ourselves under this ledge it opened up into a magnificent cave! 15-20ft in height with multiple caverns in front of us and beautiful color variations in the rock and even a little lagoon for the dinghy. I tell you it was straight out of the books of movies about pirate treasure and made the discovery very exciting. As we walked the 20 yards down the large cavern, there was the usual collection of roaches enjoying a life of infinite guano and while that part is certainly not pretty, it did not dull our ardor to push on to the end of it- just to make sure there was not a pile of silver to be found out of site.. haha I would imagine there are more caves located along their coast. It would certainly not be a summer wasted spent swimming along it each calm day and exploring them.

We ended our day at Pittman’s Cove. Is a very cool little bite out of the limestone coast and has a nice waterfront access to a small town (same one we had stopped for Klondikes at the 7 to 11 previously). We set two anchors to hold us in the proper position, a maneuver Max1 had never performed and enjoyed. We covered the sails and discussed dinner options. Max1 rowing ashore for his favorite Sour Patch Kids candy and soda. We made a Duff for dinner based on a recipe from a Honduran grandmothers “famous” Duff. It was honestly pretty terrible. The steamed dumpling though which is the true core of any “duff” was quite good. I am great admirer of William H. Tilman and having recently finished a collection of his 8 sailing/mountain exploration stories and hearing endless praise for the “true belly timber of a good duff” I had dreamed of this duff for a long time and so was a bit sourly disappointed.

If anyone knows of a British Duff recipe PLEASE post it in the comments. My search has been fruitless. It seems that at one time this sort of dish was so common and variable that no one seems to have written it down for todays age.

The next day we were off on the bikes again, this time it was only 3 miles each way to Glass Bridge and we would not be denied! It was a great mission with a stop at “The Queens Baths” and some seemingly risky climbing all over the Glass Bridge ravine. Quite enjoyable though and we made it back to the boat for a relaxing lunch of veggie sandwiches and fried plantains. We then went on a dinghy climbing mission and exploration of the nearby area farther north. There is a rather fancy golf club that looks hilariously out of place on the coast up past Annies Bite. We also say a little raccoon sleeping in the face of a high sea cave enjoying the sun, he never paid us any mind and seemed quite content. I was led to believe that raccoons experience a rare respect here in the Bahamas.

Back at the boat, we readied the ship for passage. Putting up lee cloths and stretching sheets on the beds, while putting everything in its home along the way. It was time to head back to Nassau and we had decided the best weather for doing so was a night passage and the moon being nearly full, we were very excited! Few things have the romance of sailing fast at night under a full moon and the weather app made it look like it would be a wonderful passage. We put together a great hearty soup for dinner and added the rest of our steamed dumpling (duff) into the soup for the last two minutes of boiling. It was really a treat and made our soup something powerful. We then took disco naps and started picking up anchors at 11pm. We were motorsailing on a nice reach in a light breeze when I went down for some sleep about 23:30 with Max1 on first watch. When I came up at just before 2am to find we were making 6+ knots I began to laugh a little and quickly shut down the engine. By the end of my watch we were sailing in the mid 6’s and surfing to mid 7’s under all plain sail over a calm sea with the moon making it seem a magical type of mood lit daylight. The wind vain doing all the work and the boat practically leaping with joy as she rushed through the water, bouncing merrily along to her song of wind and wave. When I came up at about 6am, Max1 was thoroughly enjoying himself and we romanticized about sailing in the cockpit a minute before he went below, him commenting Moitessier’s famous quote “People who do not know that a sailboat is a living creature will never understand anything about boats and sea.” He felt the wind vain and the movement and motion of the boat because of it was the pure definition of this quote and greatly enjoyed our sail. We made great time. We arrived just off Rose Island harbor in less than 7 hours, an average of over 6 knots.

After we anchored up and caught some sleep, we got out the hookah hoses and put everything into the dinghy for a dive excursion. There was a mark on the chart saying “Landing craft” and we wanted to go see if we could find it. We searched and searched and covered lots of ground, but never found it. We ended up snorkeling around the same area. During our snorkeling the wind continued to build and when we decided we were cold and ready to head back to the mother ship, it was blowing a nice 20-25 kn against the tide, which is exactly why we made our passage during the night. Opening my mouth too soon,  without realizing we were being protected by the reef, I said “Lucy is going a great job out here as a dive boat- totally viable!”. As these words left my mouth we left the protection of the reef and were immediately taking large quantities of water on board and climbing 3-5’ seas in 7’ Lucy. Max1 looked at me and said “Oh yeah- totally viable”… I died with laughter. Asked him to get out the bailing bucket and scoot forward as we pounded along to windward. For the next 1.5 miles we were soaked at every crest with water and bailed Lucy for the entire ride, I was laughing hysterically “totally viable” was said 20 times or more and Max1, although not quite as entertained as I, was none the less laughing and shaking his head as we went along in good spirits. Nelly the Nissan 3.5 outboard never flinched and motored us home without trouble. Thankfully, we were wearing full wetsuits anyway and so being wet didn’t bother us. I had shuttered a bit at the thought of rowing us in those conditions, but honestly think, though slow, would have been possible- but for me, rowing hard for an hour or two holds little intimidation and I’m not sure how many others would quite agree.

Max1 and I brought the boat into Nassau harbor in a hurry with the strong wind being fair under engine and genoa. Settled into a good spot, put everything away and after dinner, went to sleep. Next morning we cleaned the boat stem to stern down below, and did our best to make her as clean as when he came aboard. Then in rather fresh conditions I dropped him off at a commercial pier, just a short distance from downtown. Max1 had by then bought himself a ticket to ride a cruise ship back to Ft. Lauderdale and would fly on from there.

It had been a great trip with a great friend! Many awesome discussion and good times with nothing to complain about (hopefully on both sides). It had been a pleasure to have him come and it was, as it should be, a bit sad to see him go. My passionate interest in all things boats and sailing is hard to handle for most folk and as such one of the great things I like about our friendship is that he is very excepting and even dare say usually interested in my constant discussion of them. A wonderful change over my average company, which finds me trying to be polite and restrain myself.. haha

I took Lucy over to spend the afternoon with Danielle and share a dinner with her on her day off. It was my first time exploring the Ashram and its a very beautiful and peaceful place. She was in high spirits and I could tell even then, she reveled in the challenge of the schedule and work to be done. They are essentially busy from 5:30 to 22:00 and its no small task what they are asked to learn and understand. We gave our hugs goodbye and snuck a soft kiss and I went back to Sirocco to get some sleep. Max2 arrived the next day. More next time!

Guest blog post: Kyle Runs Solo

*Hello All! I have been living at an Ashram completing a 30 day intensive yoga teacher training course. During that time Kyle has been on the boat and has had friends come visit. Since I have not had any time to write, he has taken over and the next few posts will be from him 🙂 Enjoy!*

We arrived in Nassau after a few days anchored at Rose Island. It had been 3 weeks since we had been anywhere “civilized” although that’s arguably a strange term of identification for cities. The hustle and bustle of the harbor, the constant noise of traffic, trash, smog and general decrepit nature of it all was well, a bit of a change. The anchorage we needed to be in for a multitude of reasons lies between an island that is dedicated to local commercial use and the docks/mooring jetties for the cruise ships. The outside edge of the anchorage is a commercial/main harbor channel, the inside being a small channel for the access to the 5 or 6 marinas and mega yacht docks. So the anchorage is a very strictly defined space.

We came into the harbor a few days early due to weather, a descending cold front and its low pressure were bringing 25-30 knot winds that were to last for conceivably the next couple weeks- according to our satellite forecasts which we prayed were wrong. Once we came into harbor in slightly milder conditions than forecasted at 15, gusting 20. We found a spot to anchor and spent the afternoon in the boat to make sure we didn’t move the anchor as this harbor is pretty notorious for poor holding. I had dived and inspected our anchor and its set- the bottom being grass (which is fairly unreliable on its own) and lightly covered in debris and garbage. We then went for a trip ashore and upon returning a few hours later found that our boat had bumped into our neighbor. Very, not good. So now in the dark and the wind we upped anchor and looked around for a new place. Nothing was available really, but we carefully found a compromise and anchored down. This worked until morning, when the tide changed again and we ended up literally 10ft from our new neighbor. Not good again. But we knew what was available in the packed anchorage and that there was no where to go, so we had a conversation with the neighbor and decided to stay. In the meantime we spent the day aboard anxiously watching out the windows during the gusts to make sure we didn’t get any closer to our neighbor. I decided to try my hand baking fresh cookies and we shared the yummy (though slightly bottom burned) results with our now new friends 10’ away- the kids loved them.

See the problem is that Sirocco in much more boat below the water than above. Like the noble iceberg, she is much more than what appears to the eye, or in this case wind. This means she generally ignores the wind and does whatever the water does, if the tide runs in one directions- that’s where Siroccos lays. Even in these conditions of 20-30kn of wind, she lies to the tide. Modern sailboats do what they can to reduce wetted surface of the hull (the area below the water) in order to encourage faster speeds in the light winds that modern sailors prefer to sail in. The rustling of that being that modern boats tend to ignore the tide and lie to the wind, subsequently creating a conflict between Sirocco and the boats around her.

In the middle of the night we very gently bumped into our neighbors and needed to move. At this point Danielle and I were VERY tired of the anchorage. We ended up after circling the entire anchorage anchoring nearby in the same place. The next day we tried moving to a completely different anchorage- it was way worse conditions there than where we had been and turned back. We tried the other side of the commercial channel, failure. Tried near a beach, failure.

Finally something miraculous happened: a big boat left! This opened up a gloriously large and spacious spot and as we raced towards it, light beaming upon it from the heavens, angels singing, even the first boat we had bumped into was pointing right at our destination encouraging us to grab it. Once anchored down, the relief we felt is difficult to convey. This experience had been the most frustrating anchoring/harbor experience we have ever had, Danielle and I have sailed about 10,000 miles together and this was by FAR the worst. But now that we had a space, the world was much brighter and our time here much happier. It’s not Nassau’s fault really, it’s Christmas, New Years, the weather and the only dinghy dock in the area..

We then reserved a rental car online and took bets whether it would actually be there when we showed up to the rental car shop. To pick it up we walked through a very impoverished part of town, the man singing in the middle of the street double fisted with beer at 10am was our first sign. Our second sign was a women in a nice car coming home from church pulling over to say “I hope you know where your going in this neighborhood”.. But in typical Bahamian style we arrived in safety with nothing but laughter from our walk. The car was not there, the door was locked, but we found a nice man “fixing up the old cars” and he called a women in charge, who quickly organized a car to arrive for us and off we went- only 25 minutes later than planned- wonderful!

Now being from the US, we drive on the right side of the road with the drivers seat on the left. The Bahamas has a long British history and they drive on the left with our rental car having the steering wheel on the right. I was nominated driver. Signed the paper, put in my license number on another form and we were ready to go. We had nothing to prove we had rented the car and when we asked the representative what to do if we are pulled over his response was “You wont be pulled over”… Okay. Off we go. It took us 15 minutes and 9 roundabouts to make it to the airport where we picked up Danielle’s parents Nina and Fred. They were in great spirits and surprisingly they happily climed into our tiny compact tin can without a word or sign of apprehension. As I pulled out onto the street without waiting for a spot to enter traffic and of course driving on the wrong side of the road: it hit them. “Oh my god” Nina says with a giggle. Fred was just openly laughing out loud and by the third roundabout Nina was laughing regularly saying: “I am so happy your diving Kyle!” Here in the Bahamas as in many developing countries, rules of the road are more akin to suggestions and the horn is not used to chastise, its a communication device of the highest order delivering an incredible amount of conversation. Everyone, although driving with haste in a seemingly erratic manner has infinite patience and generally carries on fine no matter the offense committed. Pretty much every car you see in the Bahamas is full of dents, except the new shiny ones, but I have come to understand that its fairly rare for major deadly accidents as the roads/traffic naturally limit the speeds to somewhere near 35mph or less.

The next day we ran errands all day and had a marvelous time laughing at the nonsensical nature of the stores and people. Why not sell machetes in the toy section of the store? Kids love machetes! And you would certainly need to gaze over some new bedding if you were shopping the shovels and garden tools because after a day of shoveling, you would be ready to lie in your bed right? We found a lovely couple of gals that do commercial laundry for the mega yachts and dropped off our modest bag of sheets. We came back to pick them up at the end of the day and gladly took a discount for them not being folded instead of waiting. We then parked the car, said thank you’s to the universe for surviving the day driving around and went to dinner. Fred and Nina spoiled us to dinner every night and they gave us some wonderful Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve (my families tradition is to give gifts on the eve anyway) as they flew out Christmas morning. Great time was had by all.

Personally one of my favorite reasons to visit other places is the food! People who go to a new country or even a new region of the US and eat at a chain restaurant baffle me. A chain restaurant is so homogenous and predictable,  where as the small local places run by families and passionate restauranteurs can give you the chance to experience something completely unexpected. Heirloom recipes of old favorites, new twists on ingredients you know or sometimes completely new dishes with ingredients you have never heard of. Some of my favorite foods to cook lately are not dishes I grew up with, but new foods I have picked up in the last decade along the way. Of the places we went with Fred and Nina, my favorite was a Phillipanese place, right when we walked in I knew it was going to be good as no one in the room eating spoke English. Everyone in the group loved their food and my squid was perfectly cooked, which can be very hard to do. I took both my visitors to this place and we always enjoyed it.

Now Danielle was scheduled to go to her yoga teacher training course on the 2nd. So we were able to celebrate New Year’s Eve together, which is very special here in the Bahamas because its Junkanoo night! Or morning? It’s a party so good they don’t even start until Midnight.  My friend Max (#1) came in early to celebrate the New Year with us and experience Junkanoo. We were out on the streets by 1am, after our “Disco Nap” as Max calls them (a saying I have taken up) and we stayed out until after 4am!! So wild of us. Haha Danielle and I have the habit of sleeping and waking with the sun (Circadian rhythm) so for us to stay out so late seemed the very essence of extravagance.

Junkanoo is a cultural event of the Bahamas that is spreading because of its fun loving and incredibly enjoyable nature. Large teams (some well over a hundred) and small teams alike are assigned a theme and they create a parade around this theme. It encompasses choreographed dancing, a band, individual headdress competitions “off the shoulder” individual float competitions and group versions of all the above. Danielle and I attended both competitions this year, although did not have the stamina to stay for the entire event or either. The costumes are one time use. They literally make a lap of two streets: the paid bleachers on Main Street, and then the “free standing” upper street. We chose the free standing upper street both times and were all the better for it. Surrounded by passionate locals we were let in on how the costumes, dancing, and performances are judged. It deeply enriched our experience to understand the competition side of the event and we truly thank the nice folks we stood with for teaching us.

Nassau has been inundated with Haitians since hurricane Dorian. On our second Junkanoo experience we stood with a large group of them and enjoyed their company, some small children found us white folk quite curious and we had some color based discussion that hopefully resulted in a change of perspective on both sides, especially with one particular young girl. We really enjoyed the opportunity to speak openly about some of our differences and laugh about it, in a honesty that sometimes only children can have. During our first Junkanoo a young Bahamian girl had questions for me about my missing ear (lost in a violent car accident for those who do not know), her father was embarrassed and I took time to dispel his anxiety over her questions and encouraged her open and honest curiosity. These experiences, discussing cultural differences and having close conversations while getting to know some of the residents on a first name level were the true joys of Junkanoo for me. I loved the dancing and costumes, but the opportunity to laugh and have fun with those that are unfamiliar with my culture and to spend some hours getting a glimpse of an important part of theirs was incredible. Being a cruise ship based tourism here in Nassau, I think the impression left by these 5-10 hour visitors/visits can be a little unfair on both sides. Patience is a virtue easily fatigued by exercise and the endless trampling of these single serving guests is exceedingly tiring.

Danielle was all packed up, Max1 and I had all our groceries and where ready to go. So I dropped her off at the Ashram with soft eyes and big hugs, wishing her the best. Max1 and I upped anchor and moved over to the fuel dock to fill up on water and take on 5 gallons of diesel before shoving off to Rose Island anchorage to state us for our passage to Eleuthera…

More on Eleuthera next time!

Rose Island

1/3/2020

About a week or so before Christmas, Kyle and I left the Berry Islands and sailed the 40 miles towards Nassau. We had plans to meet my parents in Nassau on the 22nd for Christmas, but since we were a week early, we decided to avoid the city for just a few more days and anchor at an island called Rose Island, just 5 miles East of Nassau. The morning we left the Berry Islands, the alarm sounded at 4am and by 4:45 we had hot coffee, sails ready to go, and everything secured down below and on deck. The moon was providing just enough light that we didn’t need the spot light and we quietly lifted our anchor and navigated around our neighbors out the inlet. A couple minutes later we were in deep water and Kyle raised the sails while I set our course towards Rose Island. Even in the lull of the early morning we were able to shut down the engine and with the spinnaker set were able to travel at 6 knots.

We set the wind vane so we didn’t have to steer and then sat on deck sipping our hot coffee as the sun began to rise. First the sky changed from a dark deep blue, to a more gentle blue with the slightest tint of light. As the moments passed our surroundings became more vivid and I could make out the surface of the water. It was obvious where the sun was going to pop up over the horizon because there was a subtle glow where the water and the horizon meet. We watched as the glowing ball of fire began rising above the horizon line. That moment when the sun seems to be suspended half way up and half way down- it could be rising or setting. I closed my eyes and took a deep breathe. Whenever I close my eyes and focus, the movement and sounds of the boat are much more vivid. The surging of the boat through the water, that feeling when Sirocco catches a gust of wind and I know that our speed increased and I can hear the hull push through the water’s surface. Those are the moments I feel most connected with the boat and the water holding us.

As the morning continued I went down below and took a nap while Kyle stayed on watch. I got some pretty good sleep because the motion of the boat was calm and consistent. By the time I woke up it was close 10am and I got out some snacks and made some more coffee. We took the spinnaker down because we were making over 7 knots and the boat was over powered. Under the genoa, stay sail, and main sail we continued on at a consistent 5.5-6.5 knots. Kyle took a nap soon after and I had the most spectacular watch. I grabbed the speaker, my coffee, some crackers, the binoculars, the iPad (for the navigation chart) and headed to the foredeck. The sun was shining and began to warm up my body so I could take off layers. I found a comfortable seat on the forward edge of the cabin top and put the speaker on loud. It blasted all my favorite songs while I sipped on hot coffee and we sailed along. The waves were growing in size as we made our way towards Rose Island, but not in a threatening way. I found myself transfixed, just watching as each rolling wave moved under Sirocco. Or maybe we moved over each wave? Either way, the waves rolled by and I sat and observed. With my favorite songs playing, dark hot coffee flowing, the sunshine warming me, and Sirocco sailing herself along so nicely, I found myself with a grin affixed to my face. I felt so happy. So free. I really wanted Kyle to wake up to share it with me, but also enjoyed the solitude. Soon he did wake up and he came and joined me on deck. We sang, laughed, and checked our progress from time to time.

Soon we could begin to see land again, it was around noon that we could see the inlet leading into the protection of Nassau and Rose Island. As we began to approach the inlet, we disengaged the wind vane, dropped the main sail and the stay sail and ran under the big genoa in the front. We were making good speed as it was, and the inlet was a bit tight. I was on the helm and since the tide was coming out of the inlet and the wind was pushing through the inlet, the wind and the tide were against each other, thus creating very large waves. Easily 6 feet. This was a big difference from just 20 minutes prior and I had to put all my focus and attention on keeping Sirocco on course as we were surrounded by reef and rocks on each side. The waves were so large that I chose to stop looking back at them as Sirocco surfed down each one. Never once did I feel any fear or anxiety, instead I was overcome by intense focus and adrenaline. Kyle encouraged me saying that I was doing a great job and to keep our heading. He was ready to start the engine in case of an emergency, but it was clear that the boat was under control. And just like that, 5 minutes later we were in the calm protected waters. “Wow. That was intense and fun!” I said to Kyle, finally letting my breath out. He gave me a high five and said that I did a great job navigating. I felt pretty proud of myself 🙂 We turned left and made our way towards the Rose Island anchorage. It took a few tries, but we got the anchor down securely and Kyle dove it to make sure it was set correctly as we knew some heavy winds were coming in the following day.

The next few days were spent exploring the nearby islands. Something that I have really grown to love: exploration. For the past 6 years Kyle and I have spent a vast majority of that exploring. Whether backpacking, taking a boat down the river, sailing, or road tripping we often find ourselves in places we have never been before. And each time this happens, we get to explore. One of the dictionary definitions of explore is: “to traverse or range over (a region, area, etc.) for the purpose of discovery.” I like this definition because I find it relatable. All these new places we explore and we discover. I never know what is going to be around the next bend. What is down that road. Over the hill. On the other side of the island. Across the beach. Below the water’s surface. Each place is new and each horizon is new. It provides so much discovery and always keeps me guessing and wondering. Sometimes I get home sick for family and friends and community. But more often I feel grateful to get to truly explore. One day while at Rose Island we went to the small island across from it and walked around. We knew nothing about the island or what we would find. It was a small island and there was nothing on it, or so we thought. We were walking the rocky outer shoreline and came to some dock pilings. “Someone tried to build something here,” Kyle said as he walked closer. And then we found a sidewalk- the most random sidewalk. Surrounded by rocks, sand, and trees, a sidewalk formed and followed the edge of the island. We followed it and I found myself laughing. Where were we going? Does this lead to something? It can’t lead to something, I can see the end of the island and there is nothing there! But we had no idea. The anticipation caused us to walk a bit faster and then… it ended. This nice, rather long, sidewalk that someone obviously spent time and money making just ended at some rocks and trees. “Well that was interesting,” I remarked to Kyle. The sidewalk, for whatever reason, really put this thought of exploration and discovery in my mind. It was a reminder of why we are out here. Life is short and uncertain, and I want to spend it discovering places, things, and people that I didn’t know before. Soak up all the experiences and opportunities I can so that when it is my time to go, I feel fulfilled that I was able to see the world.

The following day we went to Rose Island and went on a coconut hunt. A few hours later we were rowing back to the boat with 1 opened coconut and 2 unopened coconuts. Finally! After all that talk in the Berry Islands about coconuts, we were both craving one and we finally found plentiful coconut trees. We were so excited about the coconuts that even though we didn’t have any tools, Kyle smashed the coconut on some rocks to get it open. We were able to drink fresh coconut water and eat fresh coconut meat while standing on the shoreline, listening to the waves crash on the sandy and rocky shore. It was a beautiful shore too, vast and the water so clear.

After a couple days we left Rose Island and motor sailed to Nassau Harbor. And my goodness what a change of world that was. We had been sailing around these mostly deserted and inhabited islands for weeks and hadn’t seen many other people or boats. As soon as we were within 2 miles of Nassau Harbor we were on our toes. Boats of all shapes, sizes, and speeds were going in every which direction. We had to call Nassau Harbor Control and state our intention for entering the harbor and let them know we were already checked into the country. Once we got the OK to enter the harbor, we dropped the sail and motored under the bridges. Huge mail boats, barges, and ferries motored past us. Fancy houses and condos lined the shoreline on one side and marinas and more run down buildings on the other side. Atlantis Resort towered over us as we motored by and entered the anchorage area. Six huge cruise ships docked right in front of us. I felt so small! We laughed at the change of pace and felt huge relief once the anchor was dropped.

The following few days were spent in Nassau Harbor at the same anchorage. Our days consisted of exploring Nassau, hiding from the rain and high winds in the boat, watching movies, baking cookies, listening to Christmas music, and doing boat projects. We were both really looking forward to my parent’s arrival and even rented a car to pick them up at the airport which was an adventure in itself, but I’ll save that for next time!

I hope everyone had a happy happy New Year!! 🙂

High Highs and Low Lows

12/28/2019

The Lows

The rest of our time in the Berry Islands continued to provide us with surprises and exploration. We needed to move the boat one morning to a different anchorage in order to get over a shallow patch and set ourselves up for leaving for Nassau. We chose to leave around 6:30am and move the short 3 miles to an anchorage near the inlet we would use to leave the Berry Islands. We chose 6:30am because that is when high tide was and we needed the tide in order to move Sirocco over some shallow patches. The anchorage we were leaving was pristine. The water was calm, the wind subtle due to the high islands around us, the current minimum so we didn’t move around much. We had no idea how good our anchorage was… until we left. We arrived at the anchorage near Hoffman’s Cay just 20-30 minutes after picking up the anchor. Going over the shallow areas was no problem, so we motored towards the anchorage. However, it was very soon clear that this anchorage was very crowded and windy and wavy! We were both very surprised because had checked the weather and where we had just come from 3 miles away was a different world. We instantly had a hard time finding a spot to anchor with all the other boats. “Let’s try behind that catamaran.” “The depth is dropping! Turn around!” “What about over there?” “No that’s too close to that motor yacht.” “Kyle the current is pushing us towards that island.” “I’m aware of that, doing the best I can. Let’s try up here.” This is how it was going and it was not fun. The grey skies, howling wind, and confused seas did not help the situation. I became tense and this, of course, did not add anything positive to the situation. I am not sure why, but I soon felt as though we didn’t have control of the situation. I was stressed out, felt like we were drifting towards and island, didn’t know what to do, and just had to wait at the anchor until Kyle told me to drop it. “Okay now!” He yelled from the cockpit. I released the handle on the windlass and nothing. “Damn it! It won’t go!” Why wasn’t it working? I have done this before, what did I do wrong? I am thinking all these things while also feeling that we are getting pushed by wind and current towards another boat. Trying again, I was able to release the anchor, realizing I left the lock on before. But then the anchor was going and going and I couldn’t get it to stop! It all felt so intense and Kyle came walking calmly up the side deck to meet me on the foredeck. “Righty tighty, lefty loosy,” he said patiently and kindly, as he twisted the lock to stop the chain from running out of the anchor locker. We were secure. The anchor set quickly due to the wind. We weren’t too close to any boats and far from the island. However, I felt so shook up. The grey skies caused the water to have a steel look to them and I felt like I could taste metal in my mouth. I stood at the bow of boat, shaking a bit, feeling numb and confused. Why had that been so intense? Was it actually that intense or was it all in my head? Kyle hugged me and we went and sat in the cockpit to have a debrief about the situation. Turns out that yes, it was intense due to the conditions and proximity of the other boats, but that at no point did he not have control of the boat. That my mistake on the anchor wasn’t a big deal and that he barely even noticed it from where he was in the cockpit. To Kyle it was a pretty simple situation and at no point did he feel stressed or overwhelmed. I had to really contemplate this for a while because I felt like a wreck. And then the rolling started. The tide switched and the wind was against the tide and the anchorage, which was a bit wavy before, turned into a rolly mess. The seas were confused, the boat rolled from one side to another. Drastic movements to the point where things that weren’t secured down below were falling over and had to be secured. This piled on top of the stress from trying to anchor in those conditions was really difficult for me. I refused to move again, I wasn’t ready, and plus we couldn’t go back to our pristine anchorage because the tide was now going out. Why did we ever move?! At this moment our neighbor was swimming around his boat for some exercise and came swimming over to us. Seeing him in the water, laughing and joking with Kyle, made me feel a bit better, but the rolling of the boat was driving me insane. I just wanted to stop moving for one minute. I just wanted to be able to fully relax. This lifestyle is amazing and I am so thankful to be able to live it, but it comes with a price. These thoughts are constant and necessary in order to be successful while cruising, but they get exhausting: Will the anchor drag? What was the noise? Do I need to get up and check? Will our neighbor’s anchor drag and hit us in the middle of the night? Did I remember to shut that vent in case it rains? When is the wind changing, are we still protected by this island if the wind shifts? How big is the tidal change? Do we have enough room under the keel if the tide goes out? Did I turn the anchor light on? How much fresh water do we have left? Should I put on my rain gear so I can get in our dinghy and motor ashore, or just stay on the boat today? It’s been really cloudy lately, do our batteries have enough power? I could keep going, but you get the point. And then this mixed with the constant moving. Moving from island to island, country to country, new place to new place. Moving while in bed. Moving while cooking. Moving while reading. Moving while going to the bathroom. Moving while writing. Moving while sleeping. So much moving. Anyway, the rolling didn’t stop until we left the anchorage two days later. But as usual, I slowly adjusted and calmed down and by that evening Kyle and I were in the dinghy motoring over to an island with a big beach and running up and down the beach as fast as we could for some exercise. And the next day, the day after the low lows, was a day filled with high highs.

 

The Highs

“Is it this one?” Kyle asks while motoring Lucy in between rolling waves that seem rather large when in a 7ft dinghy. “No, not this one. I think it’s the next one,” I respond while looking down at the IPhone, trying to check the chart which is proving difficult in the sun and spray and movement. We come around a small point in the land and are greeted with a small cove that ends with waves lapping on a white beach with palm trees overhanging the water. “There it is!” Kyle turns Lucy towards the beach and is now motoring with the waves behind us. I prepare to get out of the boat quickly as the waves are crashing on the shore a bit bigger than we are used to. But within a few seconds we are both in the water, waves lapping on our knees as we haul Lucy to the protection of the beach. We empty her of our gear and haul her up the beach a ways in order to tie her to some trees and keep her away from the water while we are gone. “This must be the trail!” We are both feeling excited about what we might find at the end of the trail. Having heard of a blue hole on Hoffman’s Cay we set out to find it. I secure my hat to the backpack, retie my sarong which is now wet with salt water, and put the backpack on my shoulders. Kyle goes first and we enter a narrow trail surrounded by dense growth. We leave the confused seas behind and are engulfed into a world of green. The earth below our feet is soft, dead leaves creating a fluffy layer on the earth’s surface. Tree roots protrude at random from the dead leaves and I follow their snake like trail back into the dense woods around us. There are some palm trees, but mostly what surrounds us seems to be a mixture of mangroves and brush. Whatever it is, it comforts me as we incline up a small hill. A large rock lays on the side of the trail and Kyle sits down a minute. I take a big inhale and then comment on the smell. “It smells so sweet and earthy. I have missed this smell!” Being on the boat for so long surrounded by nothing but low lying sandy beaches has caused my senses to become rather intense. The colors are so vibrant that I can almost feel the greenness that surrounds us. The smells so strong that they fill my nostrils and invoke memories of backpacking the mountains. The sounds.. so quiet! So quiet that I stop and listen. Listen to the faint rustle of trees and leaves, but otherwise there is nothing. The earth below my feet is so still and sturdy. It isn’t moving. I remove my sandals and continue the rest of the way barefoot. Less than 10 minutes after entering this tunnel of a trail, we can see an opening in the trees. The trail begins to get a bit rocky and the sun is shining down, causing the leaves to glisten. Kyle stops just a couple feet outside of the enclosed trail and I walk up next to him and stop as well. We are standing on a cliff. It might only be 20ft, but it is a cliff and here we are. Standing on this cliff over looking a big blue hole. Literally, just a big hole in the earth, filled with water. I had never seen anything like it. The hole was surrounded by mangroves, trees, and brush, on all sides but the one we were standing on. “My goodness, it is incredible!” We stand there for a few moments observing. Everything is so still. No one is on this entire island but us, and the water below is shimmering in the sunlight which has finally come out after two days of clouds. There is another small trail to our right which we follow. It is a rocky trail that takes us on a switch back down towards the water. Now we have arrived at the shore of the water, a light sand sprinkled over the rock of the shoreline. We are standing in a cave of sorts. From the ground to the top of the cave is probably about 8-10 ft. There are random rock formations hanging down and I am in awe of their texture and patterns. The water looks so inviting. We set up our blanket and find a spot for our bag. I quickly remove my sarong and sun shirt and wade into the water in my black swim suit. The water is cool and my body feels more and more refreshed as I allow the water to envelope me. I dive down and let the cool water hold me. All the frustrations, tiredness, and ill feelings from the previous day are removed and I feel renewed. The water is invigorating and I let it invoke all my senses. I poke my head up and laugh at Kyle who is still standing on the shore, waste deep, debating about how cold the water is. He finally goes for it and swims over to me. We swim around our private swimming pool. Surrounded by cliffs, rocks, and trees, the sun shines down on us as we float easily in the salty water. Making our way back towards our towel we lay down and let the sunshine dry the water off our skin. We decide to walk back up to the cliff, where the original trail led us, to jump off the cliff into the water below. We had read that this was okay to do, and also checked to make sure it was plenty deep below the cliff. While only 20ft tall, Kyle thought nothing of this “cliff”. He has jumped from 80ft and was giggling at me for saying “its so high!” But being the kind and patient guy he is, he took a good 5 minutes and went over all the protocols for jumping off a cliff. I was ready and we counted to 3 and jumped together. It all happened so fast and as I emerged from the water’s surface I was coughing and sputtering and choking on water. “It hurts. It hurts. It hurts!!!” I was holding my ears and my jaw and doubled over in pain. Kyle rushed over to me and helped me clamor out of the to our tie dye blanket. “Oh my god it hurts. My jaw. My ears. It hurts,” was all I could say to Kyle’s questions. Thankfully it only took a few seconds for the pain to start subsiding, but behind my ears and my jaw still ached. Once it was clear that I had not broken my jaw or ruptured an ear drum, I began to feel better and Kyle and I went to work trying to figure out what happened. The jump wasn’t even that far! I felt like a baby and laughed at myself for not being able to handle such a small jump. After a 10 minute discussion we figured out what happened. When I jumped, I was staring down at the water. So when I landed in the water my face pretty much did a “face flop” and salt water shot up through my nose and mouth and felt like into my brain. It was awful. “I am so sorry I didn’t mention to look out. I can’t believe I didn’t tell you to look forward.” Kyle felt bad, but it wasn’t his fault. I was scared now and the idea of jumping again really frightened me- but I knew that I HAD to do it again or else I would leave being scared of jumping and wouldn’t jump the next time the opportunity presented itself. So once the pain subsided we climbed back up to the cliff. I made sure to stare straight ahead at some palm trees on the shore across the water. With my nose plugged and my eyes looking straight I jumped. Kyle was waiting anxiously as I surfaced. “Yeah!” I cheered as I swam towards the shore. Much better. The rest of the afternoon we spent jumping, swimming, napping, eating lunch, taking photos and videos, reading books, and exploring some other trails. When we decided to start heading back to the boat we took our time on the hike back. I stopped at one particular spot that had the sweetest smell. I made a note to remember that moment: Here I am. Standing on the side of this trail, taking in the earthy sweet smell of the plants around me. My hair is dripping salt water onto my white sun shirt and my colorful flower sarong is slightly damp with salt water. My hat is providing shade over my face and the backpack feels sturdy on my shoulders. Kyle is standing a few feet behind me, his face pointing up into the sun. We just had an incredibly romantic and marvelous day swimming in this blue hole. There are fairly large crabs that scurry across the trail in front of me. The earth is soft below my feet and the sun is warm on my shoulders. Life is good. Thank you Universe.

The following day we picked up the anchor around 5:00am and said goodbye to our rolly anchorage. We left the protection of the island and headed out of the inlet into the Atlantic Ocean. Within minutes the motor was off and the sails were up. Off towards Nassau we went.

The Berry Islands Continued

12/17/19

Last week after we spent the day exploring Frazer’s Hog Cay we decided to make our way North to some other Berry Islands. We were both feeling quite ready to leave our anchorage as we had been there for quite some time and were starting to get a bit stir crazy. It was a Monday and we did our usual weather and routing checking and planning and decided to leave the following morning. But first, we had one more island to explore! Kyle had been eyeing this outlying island since we arrived and kept checking it out through the binoculars. It was unique in that it looked completed surrounded by white sandy beaches- no breaks in the shore of rocks or mangroves. We loaded up the dinghy and headed towards the island. It turned out to be a further dinghy ride than we had thought, but still only took about 30 minutes. As we approached the island it was clear that Kyle’s thoughts were correct, white sandy beach surrounding the entire island with a large wooded area in the middle. We jumped out of Lucy and lifted her up onto the beach. I went to setting up our blanket and books and other gear we brought for our afternoon on the sand bar. It was a nice change to have such a large area of sand. The other islands we had been exploring were either very small, or only had a few patches of sand and otherwise were porous sharp rock. Choosing a direction we headed down the beach with the goal of circling the island. An hour or so later we had circled the island 3 times and had quite a bit of fun along the way. There was a tiny little sandbar a couple hundred feet from the beach on the opposite side of where we landed and we waded out to it. Running isn’t something we get to do very often, so we took advantage of the long sandbar and ran back and forth- chasing each other, racing, and giggling. There were star fish scattered all around the edge of the sandbar and I stopped to observe them from time to time. We stretched and took deep breathes. We talked about how grateful we were and how hard we worked to get there. We discussed the ups and downs that led us to that moment and looked around in awe at our surroundings. We felt like we were the only ones in the world at that moment and that we were free. It was clear that the tide was starting to come in as our sand bar began shrinking, so we waded back to the beach and continued our walk- checking out all the rubbish that is scattered on the edge of where the sand ends the woods begin. That’s something we do a lot on these deserted islands- look at all the garbage and plastic that has made its way to these desolate places. Anything you can think of we find the remnants of. Balloons, glass, plastic jugs, oil jugs, fuel jugs, milk crates, pieces of doors, houses, boats, TV’s, ropes, plastic pieces of any size and color imaginable- plastic and more plastic. We go through this stuff and look for things useful to us. The other day Kyle found a large net made from polyethylene that was wrapped around some mangroves. He took the net and cleaned it and fixed it up and it is now our bow sprit net! So we can lounge next to the bow sprit on calm days at sea. At first all this rubbish made me sad, but now after seeing it on every beach in every country I have visited, it has just become what it is. It’s just how it is. We clean up what we can, take what we think is most dangerous to sea life and birds, and dream about one day coming back in a huge boat and cleaning up all the beaches. But for now, as to not let it ruin our adventures, we include it in our exploring and see if we can find any treasures within the plastic.

The rest of the day was spent lounging on the tie dye blanket, reading our books, napping, and chatting. Around 3pm we headed back to Sirocco to get the boat ready for leaving the next day. But unfortunately as the night went on and we checked the weather, it was looking like the wind was picking up tomorrow and that Wednesday would be a better day to leave. Neither of us wanted to do this- we were both ready to move on and had just spent the evening getting Sirocco all secured and ready to sail. We held out hope that we could leave in the morning and went to bed early. I awoke around 4am to see Kyle checking the weather and a couple seconds later heard the wind howling outside. “Tomorrow is way better. Today will be rough,” he said rather glumly. For some reason both of us were rather disheartened by this news, but knew for our comfort waiting one more day was the thing to do. I know it probably seems like waiting one more day isn’t a big deal- which it really isn’t. It’s hard to explain, but living on this little boat surrounded by nothing but water and uninhabited islands is incredible, but it’s also very isolated. And after one week we had explored every island in sight and were really ready for a change of scenery. Kyle quickly settled down to do some work on his computer, but I felt anxious and antsy. Should I go through the hassle of untying the dinghy, launching it, getting out the oars, etc, just to have to do it again later that evening? No, didn’t feel like that. There were plenty of things I could be doing- boat projects, writing projects, cleaning, cooking. Didn’t feel like any of it. So instead by 1pm I found myself running up and down the side decks. I just felt like I needed to MOVE. So despite only having about 20ft of space on each side, I ran, jumped, jogged, and skipped up one side of the boat, across the foredeck, and down the other side. I did this for 20 minutes until I was out of breath and exhausted. Then I moved onto jumping jacks and other random exercises on my yoga mat. Finally I was hot and jumped in the water. Kyle got up and came swimming with me and we snorkeled around for a good half hour or so. By the end of all this is was 3pm and I was thoroughly tired. I felt much better and after showering and cleaning up I settled down to a movie in the v-berth on my iPad. Later that night I did yoga on the foredeck and reflected on what it was that was causing me to feel so unsettled earlier in the day.

By 6am the following morning we were pulling up the anchor and talking about how thankful we were that we waited a day because the conditions had lightened considerably and the wind was in the perfect direction for sailing the 22 miles North. The sail took about 4.5 hours and we were able to sail the entire way, only turning on the engine in the last 10 minutes to position ourselves and secure down on the anchor. The day was beautiful and it was a unique sail for us as we were able to skirt pretty close to shore, which we usually don’t do. So while sailing we could see the beaches of the outer Berry Islands and the rocky cliffs covered in grass and a random house or two. The seas were rather rolly and even though they were fairly calm, the rolling waves made me a bit seasick. It was mild, but I napped in the cockpit and towards the end of the passage found myself rather excited to be coming into the inlet. We arrived to Little Harbor Cay around noon and dropped the anchor behind some rocks, protecting us a bit from the rolly seas. We knew we wanted to move to a different anchorage, but in order to do so had to go over some shallow areas so wanted to wait until high tide and to sound the area in the dinghy to create a path for Sirocco. We launched the dinghy and took our lead line and rowed through the shallow pass, dropping pins on the deep spots on the navigation chart on the iPad. Having found a way through, we waited until high tide around 5pm and motored Sirocco to a more protected anchorage. We only hit the sand twice while motoring through the shallow pass, and both times were able to quickly motor off and move over a couple feet to find “deeper” water. The next anchorage was pristine and the water was so calm. The moon, being almost full, illuminated the sky long before it was dark and continued to do so for the rest of the night.

The next morning we filled our coffee mugs with hot coffee and hopped in the dinghy to go explore the area. We both found ourselves pleasantly surprised by this area. The islands were tall, at least 40 feet and had some rocky cliffs overhanging us. It was a nice change from the flat sandy islands. We motored the dinghy through some narrow channels and found a sandy beach to land on. Kyle suddenly became determined to have a coconut for breakfast and went on a mad hunt for coconuts. We motored all around these little islands and in and out of little inlets looking for coconuts. I’d drop him off on a shore and he would try to bush whack himself towards the palm trees in the middle of the island. Finally he decided he would have to abandon the mission of fresh coconuts as we were both getting very hungry for breakfast. I will say though, that for the next 4 days he talked constantly of fresh coconuts to the point where all I wanted was a fresh coconut too!

The following day was similar to this, checking out the islands, and finding beaches to enjoy a beautiful sunset. So while we were doing similar things as we had been doing before we moved the 22 miles North, it was new and refreshing and the islands had a completely different feel. We found one particular spot that I absolutely loved and we went back multiple times to enjoy it. Here is a little journal entry I wrote about that particular spot:

12/11/19

Motoring the dinghy close to the shore, we could see all the rock formations that lined the shoreline. Under the rocks had been hallowed out by water over time, leaving an overhanging ledge. The subtle waves would crash under the ledge causing water to spew out between the rocks and creating a hallow sound that Kyle and I both enjoyed listening to. Coming to a point on the island, we turned the dinghy right and followed the point into a little cove, also surrounded by rocky shore. Because we were in our hard sided dinghy, Lucy, we were able to pull up to the rocks and not worry about them being too sharp. Kyle maneuvered skillfully towards an opening in the rocks as I grabbed my green rubber Birkenstock’s and jumped off the bow of Lucy, carefully placing my feet among the rocks. The warm clear water engulfed my ankles and I wiggled my toes, letting the water cool my feet. With the motor off and lifted, Kyle joined me on the rocks as we balanced vicariously while also trying to pick up Lucy and lift her well out of the water. With Lucy secured we grabbed the backpack and found a little path leading from the inner calm waters of the cove to the crashing waves of the exposed beach on the other side of the small island. The path was surrounded by mangroves and covered in vines and some brambles so we weeded our way carefully through the narrow path towards the sound of the waves. Coming out from the mangroves we were greeted with the most magnificent view. The Atlantic Ocean was angry today and the waves crashed hard on the shoreline. It made me thankful that Sirocco lay to her anchor in the protection of island in clam water. Half the shoreline was white sand, while the other half was the same rocks as the inner cove. Due to the size and momentum of the waves, the water spewed 20 feet in the air through the porous rocks. Walking further out from the protection of the mangroves the wind gusted strongly in our faces and brought the smell of salt and sand with it. We combed the shoreline, staying as close to the mangroves as possible as to avoid the spray coming from the rocks. Kyle spotted something on the rocks so walked closer to the water and just as he was bent over to pick up what he found, the rocks spewed the salt water and the droplets came raining down all over him. I giggled and jumped backwards as to avoid as much of the droplets as I could, thoroughly enjoying the salty mist that covered my body. I laughed as I used my shirt to wipe my glasses clean. Finding a sandy spot, away from spraying rocks, we attempted to set up our chairs and blanket to have a picnic. I set my chair up and had to very quickly sit down before it blew away. Kyle did the same and we sat in the gusty wind enjoying the show the waves and rocks were putting on down the shoreline. We passed a tupperware of pasta salad back and forth between us while also sipping on a glass of wine. The sun was shining so despite the strong wind, it was a beautiful day and I felt really cozy in my chair wrapped in my shawl. Lunch was over so we stuffed our chairs and tupperware back in the backpack and took off to explore further, stainless steel wine cups in hand. Heading down the beach back towards the rocks we followed the shoreline around a bend and hiked along the rocks, as far from the water as we could. I use the word rocks, because I am unsure how else to describe them. Kyle and I thought that maybe it was hardened and very old coral, but we can’t be sure. Either way, these were not smooth large rocks. They were porous and sharp and many times I could feel the sharpness through the rubber on my sandals. It provided for interesting hiking as we were careful to avoid the gaps and particular sharp areas. At one point the path, which I think we created ourselves, got very narrow and I looked down at the crashing waves and sharp rocks 20ft below me. Choosing to pay a bit more attention through the narrow section I used might right hand to steady me while also trying not to spill any wine in my left hand 😉 Kyle followed behind me and once clear of the narrow spot we came to a point on the shoreline and could see the Atlantic Ocean from both sides. The waves crashed even harder here and the thunderous noise made it difficult for us to hear each other. We each went different directions and combed the rocky beach as we usually did- looking for anything interesting, gathering garbage and trying to condense it, and looking for treasures at the same time. I found a miniature cove within the rocks, only about 20ft by 20ft and jumped down the 4ft to land in the sand below. I was able to climb under the rocks and squat in the sand below. It was a neat little cove and I checked it out for a few minutes before climbing out to find Kyle. We decided to head back, and stood on the point for a moment, enjoying the sound and smell of the Atlantic Ocean. The water was a deep blue color, so vivid – and the white of the crashing waves created such a contrast to the deep blue- amazing! I took the last sip of my wine and turned back towards the shoreline where our backpack lay. We were quiet on the way back, each lost in our own minds, both observing our surroundings and taking deep breathes. While it wasn’t spoken, I think both of us were taking breathes of gratitude, feeling thankful to be able to explore these islands.

As I write this post we are no longer in the Berry Islands and have moved to an island outside of Nassau called Rose Island. But I will get to all of that later- for now it’s time to start my day and possibly go scuba dive a ship wreck nearby. Write soon! -D

P.S. It has come to my attention that there might be some issues with enlarging photos on the blog. Unfortunately I don’t know how to fix this, but have found that if rather than going to the blog from the e-mail that is sent and instead typing in: www.skipperandflipper.com in your internet browser, you should be able to enlarge the pictures there. I am posting all of these posts and pictures on a small iPhone screen so please bear with me through typos, autocorrect mistakes, and odd formatting issues. Doing the best I can for being in some pretty isolated areas with limited connectivity 🙂 Thanks.

The Berry Islands

12/8/2019

After two nights at Brown’s Marina in Bimini, we decided to leave the dock and head towards more isolated islands. The plan was to travel about 9 miles South towards Gun Cay and anchor there as the next morning we were going to make the 80 mile crossing across the Great Bahama Bank to the Berry Islands. After leaving the marina we traveled about half way between Bimini and Gun Cay before turning into the protection of the reefs and heading for a ship wreck call the Sapano. Kyle really wanted to snorkel it, and I didn’t really know what it was, but snorkeling a ship wreck sounded awesome! Once again, I was blown away by what we found. The Sapano is, according to a Bahamian website: “……”. For Kyle and I, it provided a very unique experience. As we approached the wreck, we dropped the sails and motored slowly towards it, wanting to get as close as possible while also staying a safe distance away. We had the whole place to ourselves, it was a hot clear day, and being mid afternoon the sun was shining directly into the water, giving us great visibility. We dropped the anchor and Kyle quickly jumped in to dive the anchor and make sure it was set well so that we could relax while snorkeling and not worry about Sirocco. Neither of us had ever snorkeling a wreck before and we were both so excited to swim over to it. With our free dive fins, weight belts, snorkel, and masks we jumped overboard and swam towards the wreck. I was instantly amazed at how clear the water was and how well I could see everything around me. The side of the ship was covered in colorful coral and hundreds of fish. We swam to an opening and I gazed in hesitantly. “Can we go in? Is it safe?” I asked Kyle through my snorkel. He laughed at me, and said “Yes to both things. Just be really careful when going in so you don’t get scraped on the metal.” I waited for a small wave to help push me through the opening which was bigger than my body. I had no troubles and found myself looking around in awe once I was inside the ship. It was an amazing experience, and I had the GoPro with me so I took lots of footage. I took 40 minutes of footage and turned it into a little 3 minute video using some music made by one of Kyle’s good friends. I’ll let the video and some photos show how much fun we had and how unique of an experience it was for us: 

After diving the wreck it was about 4:00pm so we quickly rinsed off, put on dry and clean clothes and stored all our snorkel gear. We had an incredible sail towards Gun Cay where we anchored that evening. It was our first anchorage in the Bahamas and we had dinner in the cockpit, sitting close to each other so we could both see the sunset that exploded the sky into deep reds and pinks. “Red sky at night, sailors delight,” I said to Kyle. We laughed really hoping that was true as we had a long day coming the following morning. Around 3:30am our alarm went off and we dressed warmly and went about the routine of getting the boat ready to go sailing. 80 miles East of where we were was the Berry Islands, we just had to cross the shallow Bahama Bank to get there. Again, we had researched our route and planned accordingly with the weather, and this time we had an 80 mile day which took us about 18 hours and we were able to sail the entire way! No motoring at all, which is our absolute favorite kind of day. Although a bit rolly, the conditions were pretty optimal for sailing and we traveled down wind at a pretty consistent 6 knots for the majority of the day. We did lots of sail changes as the wind came and went and tried all sorts of configurations to try and keep the sails full. Dead down wind is a bit of a tough point of sail, but the waves were behind us which created a nice speed boost, sometimes going 7 knots as we surged down the waves. It was a long day so we took shifts and napped on and off throughout the day. Around 5pm I was on watch and Kyle was down below sleeping. I could see on the chart that we were about to leave the shallow of the Bahama Bank and enter into what is called “The Tongue of the Ocean”. What I didn’t realize is that I would be able to see the line on the water as clearly as the line on the chart! As Sirocco surged towards the deeper water, I stood up at the bow and looked at the very distinct depth line. On one side the water was a clear, teal-ish color. On the other side a deep, dark blue. I had my headphones on and my iPod on shuffle. The universe is so fortuitous as literally moments after leaving the shallow water and entering the deep water the song “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele came blaring through my headphones. I giggled and very much enjoyed my alone time on deck, feeling a deep connection to everything around me. Kyle came up soon after from his nap and we sat in the cockpit together enjoying the sunset and checking our course to see how much longer we had. Around 8:30pm we dropped the sails and motored very slowly the last mile to where we wanted to anchor. It was dark, so we were careful to navigate through the shallows and dropped our anchor in about 10ft of water. I couldn’t wait to wake up and see where we were! 

We awoke to low lying islands covered with white beaches and large patches of trees. The water was shallow and clear and I could make out all the little plants and creatures living on the bottom. After breakfast we lifted the anchor and motored 5 miles North to a more protected anchorage surrounded by uninhabited islands where we planned to spend the next week. It was an enjoyable motor up to the new anchorage as we were in close to the beach and used the binoculars to check out the abandoned marina and some boats on Frazer’s Hog Cay. 

It is now Sunday December 8th and we arrived to this anchorage on Thursday the 5th. We have very much been enjoying the isolation of the Southern Berry Islands. We are surrounded by islands in all directions and anchored in 10ft of clear water. I often sit on the side of the boat and just stare down at the sand and watch as little crabs and snails crawl along the sand, leaving a trail behind them. Our days have been filled with exploring the islands, reading in the hammock, lots of little boat projects, working, and taking a dinghy ride to an island every night at sunset. Two days ago we packed a backpack and went to an island called “Cockroach Cay” (thankfully I didn’t see any cockroaches) and spent the day there. We found an abounded yurt homestead, lots of cool shells, and enjoyed the afternoon in the shade of a tree on our tie dye blanket. We both feel like we made it to “paradise” and are feeling so lucky to be here. The other night as we left an island and headed back to Sirocco there was a large sting ray under the dinghy and we just floated quietly on top of him. I stowed the oars and we drifted, the second sunset glowing all around us and the crystal water giving us a perfect view of the large sting ray and countless star fish that scatter the white sand. 

Today we are going to head to a larger island called Frazer’s Hog and check out an abandoned marina and road there. In a couple days we will make our way north 20 miles to check out some more of the Berry Islands. Onward!