“No time to say hello. Goodbye! I’m late. I’m late. I’m late!”
Leaving Morgan’s Bluff was bittersweet. We had been there for so long a comfortable routine had begun to establish itself, and the people there had folded into the fabric of our lives. More so for Joel than any of us. He connects wherever he goes. No one is a stranger, just a friend he hasn’t yet had the chance to meet. Like a sea saw, where he reaches out, I hold back. It has nothing to do with a differing view of human nature. To us both, people are to be listened to and trusted as good, intentional beings who would only commit wrongs when backed into a corner. The difference comes from an opposing mindset about the nature of connecting. I have discovered that most of the people I encounter are fleeting. Here one moment, gone the next, and so am I. The connections when established are very real and the moments shared are meaningful. But when the nature of one’s life is constantly in flux and frequently changing, it is impossible for all connections to maintain across time and space. I realized that I would have to choose my connection that last carefully, and make an effort for the ones that were too important not to keep. As an introvert with a limited amount of energy to share, I like to reserve it for those who I am closest to and spend the most time with.
As far as I can tell, not only does Joel never need to conserve his energy in order to spend time with other people, he is most alive while in the mix of a crowded room! For him, any opportunity to connect is momentous, he doesn’t hold back. I like to observe, am happy to converse but never one to initiate. Joel must participate actively. He will engage with anyone in conversation, making them feel like they are the most interesting person in the world.
It’s a gift. I learn from watching him interact and respond. He treats everyone not just with respect and appreciation, but as if they are a teacher harboring some special wisdom. What I’ve found watching these exchanges is the truth that everyone does in fact have their own special wisdom. All of us have a story to tell and lessons to share. All of us are so desperate to be heard in a world that seems only to talk and never to listen. So much that when an eager listener presents himself, we are giddy at the chance to tell our stories. Because that’s exactly what each life is, a beautiful story, an epic narrative. Struggle and success, climax and resolution, these are the crests and troughs of the waves that we all ride. Stories are not just for entertainment or for teaching lessons, they are the lifeblood of existence itself.
Have you ever noticed that most people ask the questions they themselves most want to answer?
As travelers, we are outsiders. I can tell the locals that are like me, because they won’t waste the energy to connect or make an effort to get to know us. I don’t believe it is out of any resentment or hard feelings, just due to the fact that we are fleeting, so why bother. The locals that are like Joel, wanting to know where we are from, where we are going, and any stories we have to tell of the journey, are the ones that make such a difference in our memories of a place. They are willing and wanting to connect despite the fact that we are here one day and gone the next. It is a special and important individual that has a boundless capacity for connection, and seeks to make an outsider feel as though they belong.
Observing and experiencing these interactions has been such a valuable lesson for me. If I truly want to live in the moment as I say I do, why conserve energy for an uncertain future when people exist here and now with stories to tell and connection share? Fleeting though they may be, it is the difference of a single moment that creates memories to last a lifetime.
The length of time we spent in Andros and the quality of the interactions had while there made leaving that much harder. But we always planned to leave, and when the weather broke we drifted out like the tide.
Monday, Feb. 26th
Left for New Providence Island, departing Morgan’s Bluff at 6:30 am and arriving in West Bay – the west end of New Providence – at 4:30pm. When we shake the dust off and get moving after just chilling for a bit, things are always a bit dicey. Chak is a constant mover and a shaker. She like to go, and keep going. The only real hiccup from Morgan’s Bluff all the way to Georetown happened on this first day. Fighting into the wind while trying to keep up with Sterling and his monster engine, we ran Chak a little too hard, and she let us know by blowing the overflow tank.
I could tell Joel was tense from the beginning. Having only just flushed out saltwater from the cooling system the other day, now he would get to do it all over again. We also burned through about 5 gallons of diesel in that single 30 mile trip, having just spent $150 on 30 gallons to restock in Andros. At that rate we wouldn’t make it to Georgetown without laying down another $100. By the time we arrived, his frustration was poorly concealed. This trip made it depressingly clear that we had timed the season just late enough to be fighting into the wind everywhere we went.
As soon as we arrived, Sterling had us over for an awesome dinner of Danish ham, mashed potatoes and sugar peas. We talked things out, went over the charts for the next day, and took a breather. Tomorrow was a new day.
Tuesday, Feb. 27th
As with all good things, suffering a bit beforehand only adds to one’s ability to appreciate. This day was Joel’s birthday, and it turned out to be a beautiful one. The trip to from New Providence Island over to the Exumas – Highbourne Cay – was smooth and uneventful. Compared to the day before, the 43 miles passed easily.
As the sun was setting and we had anchored again, we took the diesel jugs ashore to see if the fuel dock was open. No luck. Come back in the morning they said. But, we did get to scope a dozen or more Nurse Sharks. Huge ones. Three of us in a small dinghy drove right through the feeding frenzy. In the crystal waters, we could see them swarming below us. Seen a little too late, there was even a sign on the back side of the fuel docks to warn about the sharks. Not a good idea to get in the water here, this is where they congregate for dinner, as fishermen dump all the guts after cleaning each day’s catch.
Highbourne is a private island with a small anchorage and even smaller marina. Going ashore here felt like stepping into a Twilight Zone episode themed: ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.’ We parked the dinghies next to a couple of mega yachts and climbed out, looking like the pirate bums we are. Joel and I, lucky to manage a shower per week between the two of us, and Sterling, wearing his flowy pants with a dew rag and a single gold earring.
Quick note on the shower thing:
I’m not sure anyone wants to hear this, but the whole cultural compulsion toward obsessive cleanliness could be a conspiracy. We seem to smell less, even *better*, the longer we go without washing. But don’t take my word for it, try it out for yourself! All it takes is an open mind. Though I’m sure it probably helps to exist on the fringe of society while performing this experiment. I can attest to some initial discomfort when one goes from having soft, feathery, soap and chemical infused locks all the time, to now having heavier, grittier, but much healthier hair. And the smell? The worst B.O. happens within the first 48 hours after bathing. So, what does one do? Take another shower, duh. It’s a vicious cycle. If you have the guts to wait it out for more than a few days, I’m telling you, the smell actually goes away! Provided, of course, you don’t work up any seriously sweaty exertion. It seems we aren’t the dirty, smelly beings we all seem to think we are. Or maybe we are and I’m just delusional.
Food for thought.
Won’t be surprised you reacted with disgust, and your opinion of Bums on a Boat is forever changed. But it’s okay, I’m not offended. It comes with the territory of doing things differently.
Wednesday, Feb. 28th
Sailing the Exumas. Heading South from Highbourne Cay with the wind at our backs felt right, definitely didn’t belong in that place. We got a late start to because we had to return to shore in the morning, the fuel and the store didn’t open until 8am. Nothing in that place had a price tag, so obviously we were out of our league here. The regular clientele didn’t have the slightest concern for bargain shopping. With our diesel jugs and some way overpriced breakfast fixings in tow, we skedaddled. ($86 for ten gallons of diesel, 2 dozen eggs, tortillas, bacon, Doritos, and a Coca-Cola. Ouch, that’s gonna leave a mark.)
Onward. South, along the west side of the Exumas. Eventually to Pipe Cay for the night. Despite our delayed start we still managed to do 35 miles before sundown. Two days in a row of smoothness at this point, averaging about 5 kts the whole time. It’s funny though, I don’t recall much from the days of traveling when all goes well. Made some muffins this day, I think?
We got a 20 min head start on Sterling as we left in the morning, and with some favorable wind, our thoroughbred Chak was ready to race. He finally caught us but it took all day. As Sterling made ready to pass us up pulling around on our starboard side, a huge, old schooner-ish looking vessel appeared on the horizon. It was a cool ship. Like a real pirate ship from back in the day, or one you’d see in the movies. Some especially decent footage followed. (See next episode for details)
Sterling lead us into an anchorage cove, and had us over for a movie night. We picked from his 4 available DVDs, *Waterworld*. If you haven’t yet, you gotta see it. A post-apocalyptic type flick where the globe has been fully covered by seawater. An epic sailing and adventure story starring Kevin Cosner, and the search for dry land as those not well adapted to life in Waterworld struggle to survive. 10/10, great movie. Now, every time a motor boat comes roaring by, throwing an inconsiderately large wake in our direction, Joel yells, “SMOKERS!”
Thursday, Mar. 1st
Pipe Cay to Leaf Cay. Through the Cave Cay Cut and back out into deep waters on the eastern side of the Exumas. Making what must be record time traversing the Exuma Islands, this day was my favorite. Navigating through the cut is what fully convinced me this place will need to be returned to and experienced properly.
Leaving Pipe Cay, the day began with five beautiful good omens. Dolphins! They appear out of nowhere, touch your spirit with their carefree, fun-loving antics and smiles, and disappear again much too soon. Four adults and a baby, they leapt and dove in perfect synchronicity and agility matching the speed of Chak and dancing around out in front of her bow. I became an extension of the bowsprit as I laid out on my stomach, GoPro in hand, and reached toward the magical creatures. I wanted to be as close to them as possible, one for the footage, but also to connect. Let them feel my appreciation and awe, to let them know how I marvel at them, as they seem to seek us out and give some acknowledgement of the same. It’s like greeting a distant cousin, a relative in a different species. If evolution itself can be considered a progression of consciousness, the porpoise family must be as uniquely evolved as we are. Simply by being near, you can sense their depth and intelligence. Though I’ve never encountered a dolphin in the water, I can only assume the meeting might be as familiar as it is alien.
It was only 5 or 10 minutes before they moved along and the moment was over, but I could tell this would be a good day. So far we had been staying a little ways off the coast of the Exuma Islands, we hadn’t gotten a taste of what we had been missing out on. This day, we went for the cut and made our way through some gaps and channels and small island passageways. We sailed past rocky outcroppings and deserted beaches, saw awesome places for diving and finding fish – some overhanging ledges obscuring hidden underwater caves. A watery, beachy playground, almost completely deserted, ours for the taking! Too bad we weren’t stopping.
Picking up my slacked jaw from the deck of the boat, yet unable to tear my eyes away from the incredible island scenery, I knew I was saying hello and goodbye to the Exumas in the same wave of my hand. I greedily soaked it all in for as long as I could and solemnly promised to return.
We made it through the cut and found a protected anchorage off of Leaf Cay for the night. The next day we would complete the five day journey with a final stretch of 30 miles. This time, it would on the eastern side of the Exumas in the indigo waters of the deep.
Friday, Mar. 2nd
Leaf Cay to Georgetown, the homestretch. Well, the homestretch to our halfway point. Sterling assured us that everything up to this point was only the beginning, the easy part. Still, Georgetown was a milestone. A place we had heard about, read about, talked about, and certainly planned to reach, but never allowed ourselves to assume was guaranteed. Take nothing for granted: lesson learned #872. Actually, more like lesson #1.
We made it. The day was perfect and the deep water was flat as could be. It was awesome to watch the waves as they came toward us. They were so far apart and so wide across. The seas looked like a blanket, a living blanket that was wrinkly and breathing. The potent color of ink; deep, vibrant, cobalt blue.
It was on this day that we finally put up a rigged pole and let out a trolling lure. The sail was going so smoothly, Joel had finally run out of excuses. Sterling had called on the radio to find out if we caught anything yet.
“I gotta do it,” Joel said, shaking his head. “Or I’ll never hear the end of it.” He had me take the wheel while he tied on the lure, it took a long time. Being a total novice, he actually had to look up a tutorial on how to tie the proper knot. And good thing he did.
The line hadn’t even been off the back of the boat for an hour before we heard the telltale whizzing of a fish on the line. “Grab the wheel!” Joel reached for the pole and we did a quick musical chairs type maneuver. “Pull in the jib!” We were still flying full sails but that would be way too much to juggle with a big fish on the line. I reached for the furler and the jib and started to pull it in. “Get the gaff at the ready.. And the net!” With a toe on the wheel pretending to steer, I managed to pull the in the jib pulling a line with each hand. As soon as the sail was furled I abandoned the wheel for a moment to jump up and wrestle the net and the gaff hook from the pvc pipe mounted next to our sunshade. Joel was keeping tension on the line and fully focused on his prize. I finally freed both the net and the gaff, laid them down across the cockpit and turned my attention back to the wheel. We had turned wildly off course and were headed straight for land.
“What is it..? It’s not flopping around or anything.” Confused, Joel was still reeling in our catch. As I turned my head to look behind us, I could see he was right. We had hooked something, but it definitely didn’t look like a fish. It was lifeless and wasn’t putting up a fight at all.
“It’s not a crab trap is it?” I suggested, glumly.
He had it in close to the boat now, fish or not I could see it was still pretty difficult to reel in. (Later we found out you’re supposed to idle down the motor to decrease the drag friction)
“Grab the net!”
I abandoned the wheel again to get ready with the net. Leaning over the side, I could see it was indeed a fish, or what was left of one. With Joel holding the line taut, I dipped down with the net to scoop it up, whatever it was. After depositing the catch neatly on the bench in the cockpit, I scrambled back to the wheel and turned on the camera.
“Oh my god.” Joel was examining our prey, “Look at those teeth marks, it’s half a fish!”
He was right. Something, a monster, had robbed us of half of our catch. What was left was still at least 10 lbs, a head and torso but nothing of the dorsal fin, the rest of the body, and the tail. We were able to identify it as most likely a wahoo. Fully intact, a fish of 20 lbs or more. It gave one final flop in defense of it’s life, but really it was over before we even reeled it in. Gigantic teeth marks raked the side of the wahoo’s body, and clearly, the opportunistic beast of a shark had scored a great lunch while making off with most of our catch. I was just glad Mr. Shark knew enough not to be too greedy and try taking the whole fish. Joel figured the line, pole, and lure set up was sturdy enough to hook something fierce. We could’ve ended up with a wahoo AND a shark.
Beginners luck I suppose. To reel in a fish that was so recently dispatched of, sparing us from doing the dirty work ourselves. We still ended up with plenty of beautiful white meat, which we marinated in a fruit juice and garlic vinegarette. Enough to stuff the three of us with a sizable portion each, and some leftover.
Not long after, we were entering Elizabeth Harbor. It was icing on the cake, to reel in a fish – the first for both of us! – on the final day of our push to Georgetown. We grilled it up on Sterling’s boat with rice, beans, hot sauce, and sprouts for an awesome lunch.
Bringing the dream into reality… This is what it’s all about. Traveling, a sojourner with with your home on your back, experiencing new places, and living cheaply to keep it all going for as long as possible. Living off the ocean and catching our own fish, the dream come true.
Georgetown has been a welcome break. A great place to kick back for a week, do a little relaxing, exploring, partying, playing, but still keeping the mindset of movement. We are on the lookout for a window, excited and apprehensive for the rest of this crazy, awesome journey!