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.

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