Leaving the US and heading for the Bahamas was poorly planned. We knew we would be leaving within a week or two, but we thought we had a few more days to gather our provisions and our nerve. We are not the nervous types, but we had only done single overnights unless you count sailing occurring over a quarter century ago. Yes. We are old.
We left Charleston harbor expecting to spend two nights and one long day offshore, arriving in the familiar port of Saint Augustine, with our friends aboard Planet Waves sailing along side. This was going to be our warm up run, two nights, to see how we did with sleep, preparing food, and general stamina offshore. Bill and I are both challenged in our own unique ways. He deals with feeling seasick, and I develop insomnia. I sleep like a baby while anchored or in any stationary place, but once I get moving, wether by car, plane, or boat, I simply don’t sleep. Sleeping pills seem like a great solution; but, first of all, I don’t use any medications ever, and this could prove disastrous on a passage.
Preparing food underway is always difficult as well, so luckily I had made a large pot of split pea soup with tons of veggies. We could heat and eat this quickly and effortlessly, right? Wrong. Here’s the list of steps for this activity: Raise the lid to the fridge; rest the hinged lid on your head while you stick your arms in to move stuff around to find the huge container of soup. Remember that you have to place big heavy and wet items lower, so they don’t crush other stuff or leak and spill over everything. Set the container on the counter, close the lid of the fridge. Don’t let go of the container or it may fly! Open the lid of the container; place the lid in the sink because it will fly and make a mess on the floor and you will certainly slip on this later. Pour contents of the soup in the pan, which rests on the gimbaled stove. Make sure you already set the pan holders in place so that the pan won’t get launched when the stove swings. Place the lid back on the container and put back in the fridge. Now light the stove, and breathe. Get bowls ready. If you are feeling ambitious, and I’m always ambitious about trying to fatten up Bill, open up some type of sausage or precooked chicken and cut into the pan. Don’t bother with the cutting board because the board, the chicken, and the knife, all need to be held and you don’t have three hands. Now comes the tricky part. Try serving hot soup in a rolling boat. I have learned to make my soup very think, with no water visible, but I am still challenged about getting it into bowls without splashing. Place one bowl in the sink, fill the other with a mug. Pass it to Bill. Fill the second and take on deck to dine. Deal with the messy mug in the sink and pan locked onto the stove later.
So, you may ask, why not make chicken, rice, and veggies, something not soupy? Nope. Doesn’t work. You can’t serve multiple items on a dish or the containers will fly, you can’t operate a knife and fork, because there is no hand left to hold the dish. Trust me, I’ve tried everything. Soup it is. Except for lunch when I try to make sandwiches. What a challenge this is! Get out the board, put two slices of bread down. Hold the board with your elbow while you open the mustard. Quickly spread the mustard between one wave and the next (5-7 seconds). Hold the board with one hand while you open the fridge with elbow, drop the mustard in and take the chicken out. Place a few pieces of meat on the bread and back it goes in the fridge. Ditto for a slice of cheese. Okay, tomatoes and avocado are great, right? Yep, they’re worth the effort, so keep your elbow on the board, hoping the bread is sticking enough to not move on it. Hold the tomato with one hand while you cut with the other. Ditto for the avocado. Lettuce? Forget it! Washing it, keeping it from getting crushed in the fridge? Not worth it. Now twenty minutes have passed and Voila! Don’t serve on dishes, because they go flying when you use two hands to hold your sandwich. Who thought a simple sandwich was so difficult?! And who knew your elbows were so useful?!
Bill and I dealt with our challenges of seasickness and insomnia well. Those Scopolamine patches are amazing, and I proved, yet again, that I really don’t need much sleep. My first night was actually restful, maybe because we had strolled all over Charleston that day and I was sufficiently exhausted when we raised anchor at 5 pm. The second night was noisy in the Gulf Stream and the sleep evaded me. But I stood every watch and was awake enough to perform all of my tasks. The third night was getting better, and if we had stayed offshore a few more nights, I might just get the hang of sleeping in a noisy boat.
Speaking of the Gulf Stream, we navigated this with the help of Lindsay. Yep. She was in Boston, on a computer, when we texted with our favorite new toy: our Delorme InReach. She let us know, from a website, where the elusive eddy was that we were searching for. The Gulf Stream is much more diffuse up at this latitude, compared to down near Miami, where we had crossed many lumpy times. The seas were not difficult but the loss of forward speed was disheartening. Our knot log was reading 7.4 knots, while our GPS told us we were only making good about 4.8 knots. Ugh. We wanted to find this eddy to make better progress. Thanks Lindsay. We directed our course more easterly to get there, and soon were making better time.
Bill caught another Dorado in the Gulf Stream. Yum. He managed to gut the bugger on the back deck but there was no way we could BBQ in these conditions, so into the fridge it went. We dreamed about all of the ways we could prepare this delicious treat. Knowing that we should not take more fish aboard, we only take as much as we can consume, Bill put his hook back in the box. This did not stop the fish from coming aboard though, as flying fish were everywhere. They sail through the air, often landing on surfaces they had not intended.
Land HO. For us, not the fish. Seeing your first glimpse of land when you have only seen water is always an exciting moment. We were both so comfortable sailing, we could have continued further, but this was a thrill. I immediately texted the kids. This is always my response when something thrilling happens. I wish they were aboard with us to share every new experience. Actually, we had been here before. Once on Wings, our beloved Westsail 32 in 1989, and a few times with our kids on April vacations.
As we were planning to head in the cut on the north end of Great Guana Cay, a tiny bit of panic set in when we realized we had no cruising guide, or Active Captain, to show us the way. Since Maine, we have had the support of guides to tell us what the charts can’t. First of all, we have such redundancy in charts, it is silly. We have a Garmin Chart plotter, Navionics on my iPhone, and paper charts for every place we have been and intend to go. But these don’t tell you “watch out for area to the East of ___ because the water can build up breakers there,” or “line up the radio tower with the bright pink house to get the best approach into the cut”. We have no wifi out here, so Active Captain was not available, and we could not find our Bahamas Cruising Guide when we left. We decided to try Chanel 16 and call for general help. “Anyone with information on coming in the Great Guana Cay cut today, please advise.” Immediately, a warm Bahamian voice came back. “Just came in, Mon. It’s easy today, Capt Bub” Thank you! These 15 knot east winds were not enough to create an unsafe passage through the reefs.
So in we sailed, right into the anchorage at the north end of the Cay. We quickly jumped overboard for a delightful bath and snorkel. Just as we remembered: clear, warm, full of fish, bright white sand.
But the land…what had happened?!? The last time we were here, about ten years ago, we explored the defunct Cruise Ship playground. Erica sung to us on the broken down outdoor stage, Lindsay found friends from Falmouth Maine to run through the paths with, and Kenny wondered if the many pirate artifacts were real. Now there were gigantic homes, most still under construction, a rolling golf course, and endless gardens which obviously needed an enormous amount of fresh water and unsustainable practices to keep them alive. We had to explore this new development. So we dinghied to shore, and walked barefoot around this ridiculous new neighborhood. Later we found out that this is Baker’s Bay, and that no one is allowed to enter without an invitation. OOPS. You can’t even go into the marina there because they are always busy offloading celebrities who wish to remain unseen. We wondered why huge black yachts, with no one on deck, were always whizzing by our boat. These were the taxi services for the celebrities to come and go from the airport at Marsh Harbor, ten miles away. We were lucky to not have gotten thrown in jail! We were not even checked in through customs yet. Shh. Don’t tell anyone.
Coming back to our boat was wonderful. We are in the Bahamas! Everything felt right. We were not even tired from the passage. We BBQ’d that dorado, added rice pilaf, sugar snap peas and wine for an amazing first night. The sky was lit up with all the shades of red and purple just before the full moon came out. Life just doesn’t get any better.