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! 

Hello Bahamas!

12/8/2019 

Kyle and I have made it to the Bahamas! We arrived on December 1st around noon and since have had an enjoyable time exploring some islands. We left Key Largo around 9:30pm on November 30th to make the crossing across the Gulf Stream and North to Bimini, a small Eastern Bahamian Island. We chose to leave at night because it was important to us to arrive to Bimini during the day light. There is a general “rule” of sailing that you don’t arrive to a foreign port at night – although we have done it many times – but it is much less stressful and easier going if arriving during the day – especially in the Bahamas where it is shallow and surrounded by reefs. With this thought in mind, we calculated how many hours it should take us to make it to Bimini and chose to arrive at noon. That way if we went faster than planned we’d still arrive after sunrise and if slower, before sunset. We had spent quite a bit of time planning our route from Key Largo to Bimini- pouring over charts, weather, and others’ accounts of crossing the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream, according to Wikipedia is: “a warm and swift Atlantic Ocean current that originates in the Gulf of Mexico and stretches to the tip of Florida, and follows the eastern coastlines of the United States and Newfoundland before crossing the Atlantic Ocean.” This is why we chose to leave from Key Largo, south of Bimini, so that we could ride the Gulf Stream to our destination. Being so strong, the Gulf Stream can cause some pretty hazardous conditions in the Atlantic if the wind is blowing against the current, so our weather window was very important to plan and I am so thankful we took the time to wait and really choose good conditions to cross. Anyway, it took us about 14 hours to make the crossing to the Bahamas. It was a pretty easy going passage, we had to motor sail a lot which neither of us really like, but being that we were playing a weather game, we didn’t want to spend any more time out there than necessary as heavy winds were forecasted for the following day. We took two hours shifts with the wind vane steering. So when on watch, it was pretty simple and relaxed: keep an out for ships, make sure we are staying on course, check that the sails are trimmed correctly, and just have an overall idea of what’s going on. While I was on watch I would listen to podcasts and enjoy the vividness of the stars. Kyle listened to some music and also enjoyed the stars and night sky while he was on watch. The night went by quickly and when I woke up from my third off watch the sun had risen, its rays shining through a cloud and illuminating the surface of the deep blue ocean water. 

Around 10:30am Kyle spotted land and we excitedly peered through the binoculars to see what we could make out on the horizon. I kept commenting on the water color and how teal it was, and then an hour later we crossing the depth contour which brought the depth from 600ft to 30ft and my mind was blown! I had always heard of the clear waters of the Bahamas, but we were just in the Keys which also has clear water, how different could it be?! I couldn’t have been more wrong. The water was as clear as drinking water and I could instantly see the entire bottom of the ocean, despite it being 20-30ft below us. “Is this really how the water is?! It’s this clear?!” I kept asking Kyle over and over as my mind took some time to adjust to something I had never seen before. He laughed at me and assured me this is how the Bahamas are. As we came closer to shore I made us lunch and we ate veggie sandwiches and carrots while taking in the white beaches, rock ledges, and incredible water that surrounded us. A bit after noon we spotted our entrance into Bimini and dropped the sails before turning up into the entrance. The entrance wasn’t very well marked with markers as we are used to in Florida, but we had two different charts guiding us as well as the ability to see the bottom. While a bit intense for a moment as we went over a shallow spot, we were quickly inside the break water and spotted the marina we planned to stay at for a couple nights while we got settled and checked into the country. 

I really had no idea what to expect from the Bahamas. I had zero expectations and hadn’t done much research on Bimini itself, other than navigating to it. I figured it might be similar to Florida since it was only 40 miles away. Within 10 minutes of docking the boat at Brown’s Marina I was quickly proven wrong. Nothing like Florida. It only took 14 hours and I felt like we landed in a different world. From the color of the water, to the way the people talked, to the just overall feeling of “island time”. I was thrilled. After docking and high-fiving and hugging a bit to celebrate our successful crossing, it was time to take care of paperwork and checking into the country. I had already printed and filled out our paperwork and had everything neatly organized in a folder, but the marina needed some additional information from us so we filled out some extra forms. We then stuffed all our important documents and passports into a backpack, dug out our shoes, and took instructions from the dock master on how to find Customs and Immigration. We walked out of the marina and onto the street and I instantly felt like I was in the Caribbean, in a land far away. Loud Caribbean music blared from speakers, run down and abounded buildings were scattered in between small dark bars also blasting music. Colorful buildings and shops with even more colorful clothes were scattered here and there. Cars and golf carts and mopeds zipped around the single road which had zero traffic signs. Everyone was very friendly as we walked down the road keeping an eye out for a building labeled “Customs”. Having found the building we found ourselves in a small, stuffy room surrounded by thick clear class, with the government workers behind the class enjoying lunch. Kyle and I stood around chatting quietly, wondering how long we should wait to say something to one of the 8 employees who were all looking at us through the glass but making zero moves towards talking to us. A few minutes passed and a younger woman reluctantly got up from her desk and came over to the counter. “How can I help you?” We explained that we had just arrived from Florida on our boat and she quickly asked for all our papers and documents. I let Kyle take over at this point as we were confusing her by both trying to answer her questions and I quickly learned that while we do most everything shared on the boat, this was a job for a single person. Some more forms, $150 dollars, and a couple stamps later, we were sent to immigration to finish the check-in process. We walked a few more minutes down the road, looking for a pink building labeled “administration”. A woman sitting in the courtyard of the building smiled at us and said “that way” pointing to a hallway. Clearly we stood out as tourists and we were thankful for her guidance. Walking down the barren hallway we followed a hand written sign: “Immigration – Third door on left.” The immigration officer wasn’t unfriendly, but also wasn’t friendly. Kyle tried chatting, asking him his favorite restaurant on the island, how his day is going, etc. He participated a bit, but mostly just wanted our paperwork. “That’s it”, he said and handed us back our documents. It only took 30 minutes and we were cleared into the country.

At this point we were both loopy, exhausted, and very happy. Despite taking two hour shifts, neither of us slept well the night before and I was really starting to feel it. We walked back to the boat, let the dock master know we successfully checked in, and in return he gave us the gate code and the WiFi password. Going back to the boat we quickly dug out some cold beers from the fridge and cheers’d. We had made it to the Bahamas! Kyle has been dreaming of this for over 8 years and me for half that long. With nothing on our agenda for the day, we called our families to let them know we made it and I quickly passed out taking a nice long nap while Kyle poured over cruising guides of the Bahamas. I woke around 4:30 and we decided to walk down to the beach and watch the sunset. It was a quick walk from the marina to an interesting little cemetery and over a little hill. The sun was closing in on the horizon and the clouds provided awesome textures and colors. The beach curved a round to the inlet we had come in earlier that day, and we could see the thin pass over the sandbar and into the harbor. It was a wonderful evening of sunsets, beach exploring, lots of thank you’s and of course a deep needed sleep. 

The next day we packed a backpack and went to explore the island. We walked almost 2 miles to the end of the island before turning back. Along the way we stopped and got a Bahamian SIM card and took some little side streets to explore the small island bit further. Later we met our neighbors at the marina and spent the rest of the day hanging and relaxing at the marina. I found myself with a cold drink and book sitting on a lounge chair overlooking the marina and the crystal clear water below. Life is good! 

As I write this we are currently in the Berry Islands, 80 miles East of Bimini. In the last week we have crossed the Bahama Bank and snorkeled an incredible ship wreck as well as explored lots of uninhabited islands. But I’m ready for breakfast, so that’ll be for another day!  -D