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. 





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!