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.