Wish You Were Here

So I have to admit, I’ve been a terrible blogger.  As you can see I’m about a month behind in current events, and while I sit here in Jamaica, posts are still going up from our time in Long Island Bahamas.  Do you know how much has happened since then?  We’ve been down and then back up the Jumentos and Ragged Islands, hung out for a few days in a beautiful harbor back on Long Island, made a 36 hour passage down to Great Inagua, and then a took two days going through the Windward Passage to Jamaica.  I blame the slacking on rolly anchorages in the Bahamas that made my stomach turn every time I picked my computer up to do a little work (although honestly, sometimes I was just out having too much fun and therefore too exhausted to pick up my computer), and so now I have gotten even further behind.  I promised myself ‘Once we get to a calm anchorage in Jamaica I’ll sit down with the computer every night and do some writing’.  But do you know what happened?  We arrived here with Nila Girl waiting, Rode Trip a day behind, and then met some great new buddies on Tamarisk that have kept us out every night.  So now we’re leaving Jamaica and I have nothing to show for the blog.

You stuck around the last time there was a few weeks of silence (hopefully) and I promise I will try not to do that to you again.  I may not have a bunch of post prepared that I can schedule while we’re traveling, but what I do have is a TON of photos from all the gorgeous places we have been visiting.  So here I introduce to you ‘Wish you were here’.  Each day we’re gone and I don’t have a story to put up of our travels, I will at least leave you with a beautiful photograph of where we’ve been.  That will keep you hanging on until I get back, right?

Compass Cay, Exumas, Bahamas


Sunday April 7, 2013

It was apparent that we had waaay too good of a time on Thursday night when we woke up on Friday and couldn’t get ourselves off the boat.  The impending storm that was keeping us in Long Island for longer than we had originally planned was also making it’s way in and tossing the seas up with it.  Our normally calm anchorage was now rocking Serendipity back and forth and I can’t even tell the moment where the hangover ended and seasickness set in.  We tried to get ourselves motivated to make it into the Breeze on Friday night for happy hour and live music, but after moving to the other side of the bay for a little more protection we could not get ourselves motivated for the 30 minute dinghy ride over.  An evening of movies and nothing else was in order, and it was actually a nice little break from all the running around and projects we had been doing.  Yesterday we did move the boat back to where all our friends were in front of the breeze and even had a nice dinner of grilled fish after Ren caught one of the biggest groupers I’ve ever seen.  Throw in some sides of coleslaw and potato salad compliments of Long Island Breeze (ok, there was still a per person charge on those), and it ended up being a really nice night that just came together without any pre-planning.

Today was our last day in Long Island, and Ren and Ashley wanted to take us for one more outing.  They described a grotto that was supposed to be behind an old abandoned church and it was supposed to be filled with little red shrimp.  We not usually ones to turn down a hike anyway and the promise of a red shrimp grotto made it sound even better.  Once again we piled the six of us into their little coupe and wound around the deserted roads until we came to the abandoned church they were talking about.  It was definitely old and definitely run down but at the same time it held a little mystery and charm to it.Even though the walls were crumbling down, faint hints of a once bright paint still stood out on shutters and walls. We stepped over strewn 2×4’s and avoided hornets nests as we took in the beauty. One of the things our guidebook recommended doing most while in Long Island was visiting one of the many churches. I’m not sure if this was one of the ones they had in mind, but if we had to pick only one to see, I’m glad this was it.

After the quick tour we wandered out back to where we were supposed to find the trail that would lead us to the grotto. Neither Ren nor Ashley had actually been there before themselves and were just going on simple Bahamian type directions of ‘look for a marker behind the church and follow that trail’. It was the same kind of directions that got us lost going to the beach for Easter service. ‘Take the road across from this restaurant and follow it to the beach’. Simple and direct. We looked for a ‘marker’ and found what looked to be a previously worn trail leading up a hill that we followed.  After bushwacking for nearly an hour we were dropped out at a salt lake, but no grotto to be found.  Matt and I seemed to fare the best as far as cuts and scrapes while the others nursed their cut up legs and blistered feet. We sat for a minute while catching our breath and playing with the foam washing up on shore before setting back out to find the real trail.  Once we were all but back to the church the guys began taking path they saw a bent blade of grass and eventually their calls let us girls know that it had been located.

Changing into our suits, everyone but Stephanie jumped into the chilly but crystal clear salt water to do a little exploring.  Sprinkled across the bottom were tiny red shrimp with long antennas extending from their heads.  Holes at the top of the grotto let in beams of light and we’d swim back and forth between shade and sun.  No one stayed in too long since it was far from the bathwater we normally experienced in our shallow, protected anchorages.  It was another well kept secret of the area that we felt special for being one of the few to experience it.  The drive back to Salt Pond was long and lazy with a few detours along the way.  We drove down beaten up dirt paths and picked sea grapes off vines that grew just off the road.  Finally getting back to our boats we gave ourselves a few hours to freshen up before joining again in the evening for dinner on Nila Girl.  The grouper that Ren had caught the night before gave enough leftovers that we were doing fish tacos with sides of tortilla chips (our ready to serve contribution), along with Ashley’s guacamole, and Brian’s homemade tortilla shells.  Another perfect day in paradise.

4.7.13 (6)

4.7.13 (7)

Beach Bungalow Dancing

Thursday April 4, 2013

We think things are finally winding down to an end for us here in Long Island, so it was time to take care of last minute business like stocking up our measly grocery supply and making sure we grabbed the bracket for the davits.  Sweating it out once more on the pavement we walked up to the local garage where the owner Les who told us the part was all ready. He brought it out and explained that although he did weld and grind the two pieces back together it may not be as strong as it originally was. We half expected this prognosis and may be ordering a new bracket as soon as we have the option, but we figured a fixed one, even if it wasn’t as strong as before, was better than the ghetto rigged contraption we were using at the moment. Plus with some of the big hops we’ll be doing in the near future we’ll need all the strength we could get. We paid the $20 to Les and continued to see what kind of goodies the mail boat brought to the grocery store.  The store was fully loaded, but the problem was that we were completely indecisive.  Walking up and down the aisles with a little basket in our hands we kept exchanging looks of ‘What do we even need?’.  We’re horrible at grocery shopping and never go with a list or even a plan so we just threw in a few basics like lunch meat, potatoes, and a staple of ours, cereal and milk.  Once we were satisfied that we could survive on the boat for another week we grabbed our Meijer bags (yes, they put our food in Meijer bags, how strange and cool!) and went back to Serendip for a little R&R.

We had a few hours to kill before the big event for the night which was dancing at a beach bungalow a few miles up the road from the anchorage.  Since there was no way we’d be able to walk there or even back and I seemed to be the only one up for hitchhiking, we grabbed a ride with Shiv and his friend Nick.  We had heard that this bungalow was the happening place to be on Thursday nights and as soon as we walked in the door we were flooded with familiar faces of other cruisers and locals that spend a fair amount of their time at the Breeze.  While happy hour was still going strong we made our way up to the bar for a couple of Sands before trying to push together a few tables to accommodate our large group.  In addition to the six of us that arrived in Nick’s rental there was also a group of five Austrian’s joining us.  We had met Jakob back at the blue hole as one of Ashley’s students and was at the bungalow that night and had brought along his group of friends.  We started out with polite conversations about travel and their time in Europe, all while enjoying a batch of conch fritters that had been brought out to the table.  After watching the girls slurp down some delicious Bahama Mamas there was a quick change in beverage choice which also soon helped me to get enough courage to get on the dance floor.

I came prepared for Shiv and his Speedy Gonzales feet tonight and was even picking up on some of the moves so that I was spinning when I was supposed to and to the untrained eye it may have looked like I knew what I was doing.  There might have been a few accidental head butts on my part but I think Shiv was still happy to have me as a partner versus one of the local women that had her eye on him and looked like she might club him over the head and drag him home.  Everyone was getting on the dance action at some point, Brian and Stephanie, Penny and John, Jakob and his girlfriend Claudia.  I had  a great dance with John who says he doesn’t have much skill but really doesn’t give himself enough credit, and we even got Matt on the dance floor for a little bit after the Bahama Mama’s became bottomless.

Since the week had been busy and we were all still a little tired the original plan had only been to stop by for a max of two hours while we grabbed a drink, said hello to friends, and I satisfied my need to get on the dance floor.  Before we even knew it though the sun had set long ago and we were having the time of our lives.  Getting into lengthy conversations with ex-American locals, cruisers, and our new Austrian friends we let go of our self-inflicted schedules to enjoy the here and now.  Intoxicated on rum and on life I looked at the bungalow style bar we were sitting in, the beach just past my reach with it’s waves lightly lapping on shore, and all our great friends surrounding us when I realized we are finally out living our dream.  This is why we were out cruising.  Up until this point there had been plenty of good times, sure, but promises of moments like this were what kept me going while I was back on shore struggling with getting the boat ready and sitting around waiting in a life that I just wasn’t satisfied with.   With a wave of content and happiness washing over me,  smiling I looked over at Stephanie and exclaimed, “This is our life!”.  Grinning back at me she raised her glass for a toast and repeated just as excitedly, “This is our life!”.

music at beach bungalow from Jessica Johnson on Vimeo.

dancing at beach bungalow from Jessica Johnson on Vimeo.

Lazy Afternoons

Wednesday April 3, 2013

Yesterday Thompson Bay finally opened back up for business, so it was back to running a few errands. Nothing much, just walking up to the body shop to grab the hopefully fixed bracket for the davits. The sun was high in the sky and as soon as we walked away from the water after tying up the dink, all wind seemed to disappear. There were beads of sweat forming on our heads as soon as we stepped out onto the main road. Going just about a half mile up to the body shop we found the shop was closed up for the day. If we had been planning on heading out that afternoon it would have been a little more upsetting, but since there’s a front coming in over the weekend and it looks like we’ll be here for a few more days we figured we could just stop in the next day and the next if necessary. Back at the boat the guys decided to try their hand at some fishing. I took the opportunity of having the boat to myself for the first time in ages to just lounge around and enjoy a little peace and quiet. There was also a little cleaning to be done, but I just straightened up until Matt got back where we dove into dusting and scrubbing and making sure everything was polished and pretty. We even tackled nasty projects like removing the wooden boards from the floor of the head and and Cloroxing the hell out of the whole area.

The reason for this major clean up is that back over the weekend, us, Rode Trip, and Nila Girl had all been talking about the set-ups of our boats and everyone was curious to see each other’s layouts (with the exception of us and Rode Trip for each other). We decided to have a boat crawl, a little more tame than the one we did on Thanksgiving, just to get the tour of all the boats. Each boat was to make some kind of snack or appetizer and we’d go from boat to boat while munching and maybe enjoying a drink at each one. While discussing our meals on the drive back from Dean’s Blue Hole, it sounded as if everyone was going very simple. Our supply was looking a little meager so Serendipity was going to have cheese and crackers, Rode Trip was going to make bruschetta with some fresh tomatoes we’d actually picked on the way back from the blue hole, and Ashley also had something that sounded quick and easy planned. Just as the sun was starting to make it’s way down we had everyone gathered on our boat first. Ren and Ashley were very impressed with the layout and even more impressed by the t.v. Mounted in the salon. We joked about having a movie night with the six of us since unlike all of our other buddy boats we’ve met so far, we wouldn’t all be gathered around a laptop to watch it. Ashley was also surprised that we had a full queen bed in the aft cabin, although the cushions have been taken out and it serves as our ‘garage’, telling us that we too should have a baby since we have an extra birth we could use for it’s room. Thanks Ashley, but I think we’ll hold off until we either have a bigger boat or we’re back on land. Congrats to you and Ren though, can’t wait to see a little rugrat on Nila Girl!

Literally moving down the line as to how we were anchored, we stopped at Rode Trip next. Spreading out on the long settee set-up they have, we each opened a new drink while Stephanie pulled a crab dip out of the oven that she had made earlier that afternoon. What happened to the simple bruschetta? Either way it was delicious and it didn’t take long before the whole casserole dish of dip was licked clean. While sitting around, Brian and Stephanie talked about how they pretty much gutted the boat once it was purchased and kept very few original items. Brian went on about how he built the cabinets, redid the wood for the galley, and installed an ice box which unfortunately sits warm at the moment since they’re finding that in the Bahamas ice can be hard to come by and is pretty expensive when you do. Then after we finished our one drink on Rode Trip it was time to head over to Nila Girl, and the four of us who already knew each other’s boat’s inside and out we very excited to see something new.

We each took a side to clean off to and and hopped over the life lines while moving back to the very extended cockpit. Spending only a moment there looking around, we then moved below where there was a nice spread of food laid out on the table. Black bean hummus and a serving of spinach and collared greens mixed with other vegetables and spices which were then placed into a portabello mushroom caps. What the heck? Is everyone trying to show up my cheese and crackers? I swear I can cook things sometimes, I promise! While enjoying the savory food cooked up for us we checked out the nice little set-up they had going on below deck. The galley was directly behind the companionway and an open floor plan spilled into the salon. White Christmas lights decorated the salon, outfitted with multiple photographs and books on the walls and leading down to an earthy green design on the cushions. It was a very warm and homey environment and reminded us a little of being aboard Anthyllide (it’s actually a little erie how similar these two couple are). We talked and snacked until our stomach could hold no more food or drinks. No night hanging out with Ren would be complete without a little palm weaving and soon him and Brian were busy at work. The arts and crafts project for the night was not a basket or a hat, but instead, cup holders. Even though a project like this had never been attempted by either before, pretty soon they had pretty little designs accessorized with handles that fit my beer can cozily into it. Ren gifted his to Matt and I as we cleared out for the night.

Today was another day for lounging around the boat without any big plans. While Matt and Brian were out fishing once more in t/t Serendip, Stephanie and I went into LIB in her dinghy to connect to the internet and get a little work done. With a nice cold Sands in front of me I sat out on the patio ready to respond to a few e-mails and get a couple of posts up on the website. Stephanie was busy getting things done on her touchpad, but for the life of me I could not get my computer to connect to the internet. Between the two of us we tried everything we could to get it going since we knew the connection was there, but nothing would work. Succumbing to defeat I decided to enjoy my beer and the pretty view while working on photos and doing a little writing. We watched the mail boat come into the harbor to drop off the weekly supplies, kicking up all kinds of dirt and sand in it’s path as it passed through. When we finished up and got back to our boats we found that the guys had done alright while fishing a wreck about a half mile from where we were anchored. On the menu for us that night was crab and lobster, the first items that Matt has speared this trip.

Now this is the kind of meal I’ve been waiting for. There are few things I really had to do while in the Bahamas, but eating a freshly caught Caribbean lobster was one of them. This guy happened to be pretty small, but I didn’t mind, it was lobster. Funny part is, Matt didn’t even mean to get this guy because of his small size, he just happened to be hiding behind the ginormous crab and ended up getting speared along with it. Pulling out the largest pot we have, I went about ‘prepping’ dinner. I had never cooked a lobster before and the only time I’d done crab was watching Brian throw some into a pot of boiling water to be steamed back when we were in Annapolis. So I put a little water in the pot, sprinkled in some Old Bay seasoning, and dropped in our already dead catches to steam to perfection. Once they were nice and red we brought the plate outside to eat al fresco under the moonlight. Starting with the crab I dove into it’s big claw only to find there was no meat in there. A bunch of water did drain out though and made my rice a soupy mess. Tearing apart the crab piece by piece, we found out the other legs held minimal meat and the body had none. For his big size he was not giving us much at all. Splitting up the lobster, Matt took the body while I took the tail. Even though he was a little guy he was full of meat and I joyfully dipped him in butter, savoring my first Caribbean lobster. I can’t say the meal was quite filling so I still ended up making hot dogs a little later, but when there’s free lobster on your table, can you really complain?

Regatta Get Outta Here

Monday April 1, 2013

The holiday weekend festivities continued today with the Long Island Easter Regatta. Stephanie, Brian, and myself were all off our boats in the late morning to make our way over to Fairhaven where Penny and John were hosting a pre-regatta get together while Matt stayed on Serendipity to get a little extra sleep. He had been up all night after this little scenario happened. Him and Brian had been out fishing, and while he went back to drop Brian off on Rode Trip I started the cleaning of the fish up on deck. I had my cutting board, fillet knife, and fish all ready to go. Having this be the first time we cleaned fish on Serendipity and knowing that Georgie would be a little curious we had locked her down below to keep her out of the way. Somehow she had jumped from I don’t even know where to out of our back hatch and onto the deck where I was busy gutting and filleting away. Around this time Matt had come back and quickly tied the dinghy off to the side so he could stick Georgie below before she ended up on the wrong end of my fillet knife. (She escaped twice more even when the hatch was closed for all but two or three inches. I swear that cat can get in and out of everywhere). Later that night after I had been exhausted from making my way to three different beaches that day I was going to bed while Matt went out to secure the dinghy on the davits. I was half asleep and in quite a daze when Matt yelled down to me “The dinghy is gone!!”.

If we were in any other country my mind might run to theft first, but we were in the safest and friendliest place you can be and the only people we had to blame for losing it were ourselves for not cleating it off properly. It was pitch black out now so there was no sense in going out to search for it, we just had to hope that the wind was moving in a direction that might wash it up on one of the little cays behind us instead of out into the Exuma Sound where it’s likely we’d never see it again. My mind raced with thoughts of where we would get a new dinghy, probably Georgetown or Nassau, what it would cost us, and what we’d be able to use in the meantime. Still exhausted from my day though it didn’t take me long to fall back asleep although Matt was up through the whole night wondering the same things that I was. I do remember having a very delightful dream where I had still been in the v-berth sleeping and Matt’s calls out to me “I can see it, it just washed up on the cay behind us”. But then I woke up to pitch black and realized it couldn’t be true since it was not yet light, and even if that were the case, he would not have been able to see it. My dreams must have been sending some powerful signals though, because once dawn did come I looked up to see Matt on the steps of the companionway with binoculars in hand saying “I think I see it washed up on the cay behind us”. He had me take a look as well and I could tell right away that it was ours. Thank God. After breakfast we had Brian come over in his dinghy to run us out there, and besides washing up on some jagged coral that did a good bit of scratching to the bottom, it was otherwise fine.

So Matt had slept off his worries, and since I had been able to do that the night before I joined a group of others to do some pre-regatta partying. About 10 of us were hauled out from Long Island Breeze to Fairhaven between a pickup truck and a minivan. Pulling up the steep driveway we were greeted by a stone wall with a beautiful wooden door, and a big sign that said ‘No Goats’. Apparently the goats that roam free on the island are always trying to get into their yard and eat up all the plants and vegetables. Taking a small tour of the yard we walked up to the house and admired the wraparound porch. It offered spectacular views of the bay below and all the little sailboats bobbing happily around in it.  Sitting around Fairhaven was a great chance to get to know a few more of the people we had met at the sunrise service the day before and also a lot of other cruisers in the bay that we had not yet met.  For a few hours we just lazed around and let the cool breeze wash over us as we traded stories and sipped on cold drinks.  When the food was gone and the drinks were getting low we piled ourselves back into the truck where we were carted back to Long Island Breeze and the regatta site.

We found some disappointing news when we got there that the regatta was actually no longer happening since so few boats were going to race that none of the locals wanted to go through the hassle of getting their boat in the bay.  It was a bit of a let down that we wouldn’t be seeing the sloops glide through the water anymore, but there was still friends and food and music to enjoy.  Buying myself a beer before Matt got there and could give me the evil eye for not saving our money after the extensive amount we had just spend in Florida and  Nassau, I relaxed at a picnic table next to the bay with Ashley and Stephanie squeezed next to me.  It was a pretty similar day to the fish fry, all of the same people in the same area doing the same thing.  At least this time we had our pre-made group of friends before we got there and tried to squeeze as many people into and onto one picnic table as possible.  A little rain passing through sent most people running for cover but now that we were in the tropics (we crossed the line on our way to Long Island), I relished a little cool down and didn’t even care that my painstakingly straight hair was now going curly again.

Listening to the beats thumping from the speakers the whole time we were sitting, I was getting a little excited to get out on the dance floor but knew I wouldn’t find a willing partner in Matt.  Stephanie and I made a pact that we’d go dance together a little later, but some errands sent her back to Rode Trip for a little bit and I thought I’d lose out.  Luckily Shiv who was sitting next to me was also keeping time to the music and and we just kind of looked at each other and were like, “Hey, let’s go dance!”.  So the two of us wandered up to the stage and wedged our way in between the locals already having a good time.  I tried to take a lead from Shiv except his feet were moving ten times faster than mine.  We twisted and turned and fast steps until the song ended five minutes later and my legs were ready to give out.  I had to wait one out before I was ready to go again and was almost relieved when an older Bahamian man cut in with me and we were able to move at a nice slow swaying pace.  When I was able to get my breath back Shiv cut in, and we spun and twirled once more until the song ended and I was drenched in sweat.  By this time all of our friends had come closer to watch the show and I staggered over to the table to pass out on the bench.  Next time I go to a rake & scrape I’ll have to be a little more selective about my dance partner so that my heart doesn’t give out on me.

Sunrise Service

Sunday March 31, 2013

When Brian found out we’d be on Long Island for Easter Sunday, he had been very interested in finding a catholic church service to attend and put a request out on the morning cruiser’s net. While he had been given the names of a few churches along Queen’s Highway, all but one requiring some kind of transportation to get there, he thought that him and Stephanie might be trying to hitch a ride just to attend. What we also heard on the net though, is that Penny and John at Fairhaven like to host a sunrise service themselves on the beach. They had done it last year with about 12 people in attendance, met just before the sun came up, sung some hymns, and then participated in a potluck with mimosas. There was no part of this that was sounding bad to Matt and I either so we agreed to join if Brian and Stephanie were planning on going. Ren and Ashley once again graciously offered to give us a ride there since it was three miles up the road from where our dinghy would be parked at LIB. Finally getting tired of the long dinghy rides into shore, both us and Rode Trip had moved our boats closer to the dinghy dock but still set our alarms at 5:30 that morning in order to meet Nila Girl at the docks by 6:00.

Matt and I climbed in with Ren and Ashley while Rode Trip hopped a ride with Alli and her dad Joe. None of us were exactly sure where to go, just to turn right on the road across from some restaurant. Even though we thought we were leaving a little late, we ended up being the first cars there which led to a little off roading down a beaten trail while we looked for everyone else. Turning around and bottoming out the car a few more times we finally saw more headlights on the horizon and followed the other cars to the correct beach. There was a group of close to 20 people this year and we got busy setting our food up on tables and placing chairs in a circle around it. Sipping on the hot coffee that Stephanie brought us, we introduced ourselves to a few new people before the ‘service’ got started. It was very short and sweet, a prayer to start while we held hands in a circle, and then anyone who wanted to say a few words was more than welcome to. We tried to follow this with a few hymns, but we only got as far as Amazing Grace when we realized the gusting wind from the Atlantic coast was drowning out everyone’s voice and no one was even on the same chord, or the sheets of lyrics were beginning to blow out of people’s hands. It was a great effort though and I don’t think anyone was disappointed in our trying.

After that we broke out the food and the champagne. Using the dyed hard boiled eggs that Ashley made, we had a little ‘egg war’ where two people would smash their eggs together and the person without a crack would move on to the next challenger. In the mix of food were things like homemade bread and jam, quiches, and brownies. It is rarely a bad idea to go to a potluck kind of event when cruisers are around because everyone has at least one dish they do really well and I never mind taking advantage of that. While enjoying all this flavorful food and bubbly mimosas, Matt and I talked to all kinds of different cruising couples, lots who wintered in the Bahamas while working back in the sates in the summer, but all were excited for us that we were out traveling at our age. As strange as it sounds, this is the first time that Matt and I have been ‘the young ones’ in a group of cruisers since we always seem to find people near our age. In this group though, besides Rode Trip and Nila Girl, we were the youngest by at least 20 years and up to 40. This is the ‘cruising group’ we were told from the beginning that we would encounter yet it has taken us 7 months to do so. They were all great people though, and very easy to talk to since we all have this huge thing in common.

With such and early wake up time that morning it wasn’t long before our eyes started drooping and either the lack of sleep or full glass of now champagne only (who would have guessed that more of that was brought than juice?) that was making me want to crawl in the sand for a nap. Luckily we had an easy out because Ren and Ashley needed to get to the blue hole and they were our ride home. I barley got the headband out of my hair when we got back before I was asleep on the settee for a good two hours. Later in the afternoon while the guys were out trying their luck at fishing, Stephanie and I took her kayaks out to a little sandy cay by where we were anchored for a little relaxing and reading in the sun. When we got there another older cruiser couple was out walking their dogs and we went up to say hi. This is a conversation I have a feeling I’ll have to start getting used to very soon:

Couple: “Are you to here on vacation?”

Us: “No, we’re here in boats as well.”

Couple: “Oh, so you’ve rented a boat to spend your vacation on?”

Us: “No, we’re also cruisers. We came here in our own boats.”

Couple: “So there’s four of you traveling on one boat?”

Us: “No. Each of us and our significant others own our own boat. That we each came here on separately. Cause we’re also cruisers.”

Couple: “So you’re from Florida? You just came down to the Bahamas for a few months before you have to go back?”

Us: “No, we came from Michigan and New Hampshire. We’re going to be out cruising for 4-5 years.”

Couple: “But you’re so young!! What do your parents think of this?”


Maybe the conversation sounded more degrading in my head than it actually was, or we really are such a rarity that people are shocked to see anyone under 45 doing what they’re doing. We were already nicknamed ‘The Kids’* during happy hour at Long Island Breeze on Friday and it looks like it’s going to start following us. It just irks me if people were to look at us and say we shouldn’t be out here because of our age (not that this couple was…I think). First let me say, we are in our 30’s. We did not just graduate from high school and jump on a boat. We know what we are doing and we have been planning and preparing for it for a long time. Second of all, when did 30 become so young to the point that we need training wheels to go out and do anything on our own? I’m sure that forty years ago no one looked at a 30 year old cruiser and exclaimed “My goodness, you are too young to be out doing this! We should have left you in our overprotective system another 20 years at least to prepare you!” Our parents? We didn’t have to ask their permission to leave. We told them what we are doing and they’re happy for us and proud of us for taking the initiative to live our dreams before it becomes too late to do so. To me, this seems like the perfect age to take this kind of trip, for however long we decide to do so.

I’m sorry, that’s my rant for the day. This post started out all nice with friends and kindness and mimosas and now I’ve ruined it by rambling about something that really isn’t even that important in the grand scheme of things. I apologize. Let me just get back to my happy, cheery, sun is shining water is sparking frame of mind. Happy Easter everyone.


*For the most part, I like that nickname. The people that gave it to us did it in an endearing way, knowing fully well that we are capable of what we are doing, are excited that there is some young blood in the mix, and wished that there were more of us. It only annoys me when people think that because of our age we are clueless or incompetent. I think for the kind of trip we’re planning I’d much rather do it at 30 than at 60. But we’re going a completely different route that those cruisers that look at us with concern and that’s a whole ‘nother conversation.

Dean’s Blue Hole

Saturday March 30, 2013

Today was the day we were going to Dean’s Blue Hole, the deepest in the world at over 600 feet, with two world champion free divers, Ren and Ashley Chapman. Having just met us yesterday, they graciously offered to cart the four of us with them down to the hole where they go to practice almost daily. Loading up our masks, fins, snorkels and wetsuits, we crammed everything into the trunk of their car, and then proceeded to pack the four of us into the back seat. The drive was only 30 minutes, and Stephanie offered to sit in Brian’s lap while I squeezed into the middle between them and Brian. Speeding down Queen’s Highway to the south end of the island, we’d go for miles without passing anything at all, and then a few houses here and there. For being such a large island it only has about three towns that are heavily inhabited, and between them seem to be just a few small shack type restaurants. The drive seemed to go by fairly quick, with all of us still interested in the roadside scenery, but as soon as we pulled up to the hole the four of us spilled out of the back seat and went to grab our gear from the trunk.

Matt was the first one in the water, throwing on his fins and slinging the camera over his shoulder while the rest of us stood on shore and chatted. I was the next to gear up and go in, and after Brian and Stephanie took a little hike around the surrounding cliffs, they too made their way into the hole. What I had originally expected from it and what it turned out to be were completely different. I don’t know why, but I had assumed you’d be able to see far into the depths of the hole, almost as if it would be backlit for my viewing pleasure. What it turned out to be instead was a big black hole into which you could see nothing. Overall I think this helped with my swimming over it since you couldn’t even get close to telling how deep it was which eased my fears of falling into a black abyss, but as they say, you can just as easily drown in 30 feet of water as you can 300. So back and forth I went swimming across it, occasionally trying to dive down a little bit to get a better glimpse of the fish swimming around. Ren and Ashley were on the clock with a few students learning the art of free diving, so while they weren’t hanging around with us while we swam around, giving tips on how to dive a little deeper, they didn’t mind if we swam all over, as long as we were not to loud or distracting the students trying to dive.

Here’s a little set-up on what goes on there. Just in case I’ve gotten a few of the facts wrong, feel free to correct me, Ren or Ash. In the middle of the hole is a large platform with weighted lines running from one end to the other, and a pulley system at one of the edges. While teaching or practicing, a line will be lowered to a certain depth in the water with a weight at the end of it. After staying on the surface of the water for 30-60 minutes to acclimatize to the water and work on breathing techniques, the diver will work their way down the line, tapping the weight to mark they had gone to the desired depth, and then slowly work their way back up the line. Each time they come back up they need to give assurance that they are ok, and after a few minutes, they’ll go back down again. This is done over and over, each time with the weighted marker going further into the water and causing the diver to have to go a little deeper to reach it. I think (don’t quote me) that after enough general practicing like this has to be done, the diver doesn’t need to walk themselves up and down the line, but will just run one hand along it as a guide and they freely dive down. All of this is done without any kind of oxygen supply, just a single breathe taken by the diver.

Matt made a few attempts on his own, near the side of the hole and not the line, just to see how his skills were. He was able to touch a little ledge before the bottom really dropped off, and that’s supposed to be about 30 feet deep. I’m not very good with equalizing, my ears will always start to pop and I haven’t been able to work out that issue, so at the moment I’m about a 10-15 foot diver. When we tired ourselves out we went to sit on the platform, and Ren demonstrated a few breathing techniques, simulating a 200 foot dive. It was very impressive, and as easy as they say it is to learn, I have a feeling I won’t be diving deeper than 20 feet for a long, long time. We also got into a conversation about flippers since Ren was wearing a kind that we had never seen before. They were extremely long, looked to be made of carbon fiber, and had botties that laced up around your feet. When Matt asked to try them out, a mass flipper exchange began with all the guys trading around their flippers to see how they were different from their own. Ren’s were very long and flexible, Matt’s were medium and hard, and Brian’s were short but flexible. The real fun came when one of the students visiting from Austria, Jacob, lent the guys his practice fins, which looked like one big flipper. Matt had a blast with those, swimming quickly back and forth over the hole and performing dolphin kicks.

Stephanie and I sat off to the side of the platform, her soaking up the sun while I practiced diving board-esque dives off the back side of the platform. Then it came time for something I knew I couldn’t avoid. Something I had said earlier in the day that I would do, and there was no backing out now. With Matt and Brian next to me we jumped back in the water and made our way over to the side of the large cliff that hung over the blue hole. We were all going to make the 30 foot jump from the top down into the water. Down at the platform it didn’t look very high at all and I knew the water was deep enough to support the jump. But as I climbed barefoot higher and higher up the jagged coral, that water was starting to look very far away. Once I got all the way to the top I looked over and got naucious, unsure if I’d be able to go through with it. Brian was the first to jump off, in a spot about 5 feet lower than I was. He plunged into the water and then surfaced again, swimming back to the platform where everyone was still sitting. Although it took a moment of contemplating, Matt was the next to go, following the same pattern. Now I stood at the top alone, my heart thundering in my chest, but knowing I could not face the shame of walking back down the hill. Taking a deep breath, I knew there was enough water below to support me and no rocks to accidentally bounce off on my way down. I leaped off the side where the feeling of vertigo only lasted for a second before I caught control and remembered to go in with my toes pointing, and then splashed into the cool deep water.

Coming to the surface I expected a hero’s applause from everyone who had just witnessed my death defying jump, but all I got were a few claps from my friends and a sedated “Oh hey, she jumped” from anyone else watching. I was still on top of the world though, as this had gone much better than my rope swing jump into a river about ten years ago, something Matt’s still surprised I survived.* Almost tempted to do it a second time just because I could, I instead opted to sun myself on the platform before swimming back to shore so Stephanie and I could beach comb while the guys continued to swim and dive. In the early afternoon Ren and Ashley piled us back into their car for the ride home, but not before stopping for the island’s best conch burgers along the way. I told Matt we could not leave the Bahamas before I had the chance to get one. The food was delicious, the company was great, and I was so worn out that I didn’t even make it to ten o’clock before passing out.



*When Matt and I were about 18, we went with a group of friends to a rope swing that dropped you into a river. Instead of jumping from a tree that was right next to or hanging over the water though, the tree we were using was on a 20 foot bluff above the water, also set back about 20 feet from it. When it was my turn I grabbed onto the rope, took my feet off the tree stump that was giving me my backwards momentum, and went flying towards the water. Except, I never made it that far. As soon as I had gotten to the point that I was past the bluff but not yet to the water, my arms couldn’t hold on any longer, and I let go, dropping 20 feet to the ground below. I landed on my butt in hard sand, a little shocked, but otherwise ok. Knowing that this incident might scare me from rope swings for the rest of my life, I got back up to do it a second time. And the same thing happened!! This time I made it into about six inches of water though, still on my butt in soft sand and small stones. Once again I was not ingured, but I had not been able to jump from high places into water since then.

Good Friday Fish Fry

Friday March 29, 2013

Trying to stay on our boats for the good part of the morning and early afternoon, we didn’t want to make it into shore for the fish fry too early all started to get restless for shore a little earlier than we thought and decided to make our way in a little earlier than planned. We found out yesterday that the fish fry was to go from 1-6, but Island Breeze was having a happy hour beginning at 5 that we definitely wanted to make it to. Parking the dink at Long Island Breeze once more, we swore that the 20 minute ride in from where we were anchored on the far end of the bay was not worthwhile and that if we were going to be here for a few more days we’d be moving in much closer. Cutting through the little paths that led between LIB and the regatta site where the fish fry was being held we could hear the music blasting away long before we ever got close. Seeing that you needed to buy tickets for both food and drinks we quickly purchased them and got in line for our fish fry. At this point the music was pumping so loud that we could barely get our orders in with which sides we wanted and had to keep yelling at the woman behind the counter although she found no reason to speak up while repeating it back to us. I had no idea if I’d end up with fish or chicken, and I was ready to take any two sides they chose to give me as long as there was food in front of me.

When all four of us had our food and drinks we sat at a nice set of tables with tiki hut roofs, overlooking the water. The fried fish that most of us ended up getting (Matt had to be the odd one with chicken), looked very similar to what we had just caught in Georgetown and tasted every bit as delicious. It was my first time having a whole fried fish though and a little strange still having the skin attached and picking the meat from the bone. Reminding me of our crab night back in Annapolis, I left a lot of the stuff I wasn’t sure about alone but was way too full to worry about if I had glazed over perfectly good fish. I figure I’ll still have a lot of chances to try. When we finished eating we figured we should try and mingle with some of the other cruisers in the area instead of staying in our own little group. Knowing that most cruisers are very friendly and outspoken, we went up to one table and waited for a few minutes to get any kind of acknowledgment but no one ever looked at us. We probably could have forced our way into the conversation, but I had spotted a group of people closer to our age that I wanted to talk to instead anyway. This also looked like a close knit group of people but Matt took it upon himself to interrupt and introduce himself.

One way that he found an in was because two of the people at the table were wearing hats that looked like they were made from palm leaves. Stephanie had wanted to ask about them anyway to find out how she or Brian could make one since they learned a little about basket weaving out of palms and thought a hat would be the perfect thing to add to the collection. What we found out after a few more introductions is that of the six people at the table, only two of them were cruisers like us. Their names were Ren and Ashley, an in addition to being cruisers, they are also world champion free divers. Everyone else at the table had flown in to take lessons from them at a blue hole on the south side of the island. They had been living in Long Island for the past five months on their boat Nila Girl (named for their late dog), and were at the blue hole almost every day either practicing or giving lessons. Ashley currently holds a few records for free diving including deepest with no fins, but is now taking it a little easy since there are expecting their first child this fall. Also in the group was a guy named Shiv and a girl named Alli just in Long Island for a week or two while taking lessons.

While telling them that we were very interested in seeing the blue hole and were thinking of hitching a ride there the next day, Ren and Ashley offered to take us with them in their car, as long as we didn’t mind squeezing the four of us into the backseat. It was not an issue for us at all and we were just thankful for the offer since we heard it can be a bit difficult for four people to try and catch a ride together anywhere and thought we might have to split up to get to the hole. We asked both of them a few more questions about free diving since it’s something we didn’t know much about, and although I’m sure they’re busy fielding questions like them all the time, they were very nice in answering all our inquiries. Next on our question list was the initial reason we came over, the cool palm hats that Ashley and Shiv were wearing. This was something that Ren was very excited to talk about and mentioned that he had some fresh palms back at a friend’s boat and that if we were planning on going next door to Long Island Breeze for happy hour that he could show us a few things. How could we resist an offer like that? Not that we were about to turn down happy hour anyway, but it was also nice to immediately be taken into a new group like we had always belonged. Ren even made sure that our bracket for the davits was given to the local welder who was also at the fish fry and was told we’d have it back first thing Tuesday, after all the Easter holiday festivities were over. Score for us!

With cold Kaliks in hand we all gathered on the deck next to the pool to watch Ren do his magic. A bigger crowd of other interested people gathered and his first lesson was in weaving a basket. Although I should have been paying attention, I was looking for lessons on a hat and decided to mingle with other cruisers instead. I met a lot of great new people, including Penny who we had heard on the net a few times. Her and her husband John own a home named Fairhaven a few miles north of LIB and are very sociable and friendly, not to mention funny as hell. Every few minutes I’d check in on basket weaving lessons and found Brian along with a few others already weaving away on their own. I asked about hats but found that you have to learn to weave a basket before you can move on to a hat. I guess I’ll have to rely on Brian to help me with that since I was so excited to skip ahead to a hat that I never learned the basics. It didn’t take long for happy hour to turn into night and before I knew it everyone was parting ways and heading back to their dinghies. We had set out that morning to experience a little local culture and hopefully make a new friends and I’d have to say we were pretty successful on all fronts. Plus Rode Trip now has a nicely woven basket to hold fruits and veggies. I’d say it was a good day.

Beauty and the Beach

Thursday March 28, 2013


After our somewhat rough passage from Georgetown to Thompson Bay Long Island yesterday, we gave ourselves the evening to relax and didn’t plan any kind of group get together for fishing, games, or even just hanging out with a beer in hand. So after listening to the cruiser’s net this morning, we were all ready for a shore excursion. Knowing there was a dinghy landing on a beach, but completely unsure of how far from a road it was, we kept traveling along the shore until we came upon Long Island Breeze, a resort/restaurant on the island. All four of us were amazed by how clean and immaculate the building was. For the most part everything we’ve seen so far in the Bahamas is a little run down and overgrown, but you could tell this place was constantly maintained. We tied up to the floating dinghy dock and walked up the boardwalk, past lounge chairs on the beach and cute little cottages until we reached the main road. The first order of business was to find the welder so we could hopefully get the brackets for the dinghy fixed. It was something we were really hoping could be finished that day, since during the net they mentioned that with Easter weekend coming up, the town basically would shut down for Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and the Easter Monday Regatta. If we couldn’t get the piece fixed today or Saturday, we’d be staying at the island for quite a few days.

With no signs of any kinds on the road to tell you where the body shop/welder was, we went up to a building lined with beat up cars, hoping to get lucky there. Searching around for a few minutes we didn’t see another soul around and decided that a walk over to the beaches on the east side of the island would be a good distraction until we could check back later. Stopping into one of the local grocery stores for an ice cold Coke and directions, we found that the road right next to their store was about a 10 minute walk to the beach. Setting out on the paved road it was apparent the 20 knot winds that were blowing on the water were almost non-existent on land and it quickly warmed up. After just a few minutes of walking though, we came to the top of a hill and could see the Atlantic on the other side, bringing a refreshing breeze up with it. Although Long Island is very long (about 80 miles), it’s only 4 miles at it’s widest point, so getting from one side to the other isn’t very hard. The pavement turned into a dirt road which then dropped us into a sandy trail right up to the beach. The first thing that caught my eye was a giant boulder in the water that looked like something out of a magazine enticing you to far off exotic locations. Which I guess this would count as? The second thing I noticed was all the garbage on the beach.

Since we’d been spending most of our time on the leeward sides of islands the entire trip, or were in the Great Bahama Bank or Exuma Sound, this was our first exposure to the windward side of an island from a very large body of water. And what happens on the windward side of islands, especially in large bodies of water, is that all the trash that has been floating around gets washed up on shore. The whole beach was littered with plastic bits and surprisingly, lots of shoes and sandals. I’m hoping a lot of the items were things that accidentally or unintentionally went overboard on boats since it’s happened to the best of us, but it was sad to see the place where it all ends up. I guess it just drills into your mind that if you’re in the water out in the middle of nowhere and think “I can just toss this plastic bottle overboard, no one will ever see it out here”, that it probably will eventually make it’s way to what would have been a stunning beach but now is a partial eye sore because of all the trash building up on it.

Trying to focus on the pretty parts though, we walked the shore towards the boulder, letting the waves crash up around our ankles. One by one we walked into thigh deep water and out to the boulder to explore it a little further. Even though I was sure I would fall and kill myself I carefully climbed to the top, using all the indents in the rock/coral as foot holes and hand grips. Getting up was the easy part but as soon as I wanted to go down those foot holes were much harder to see and I was tempted to ask Matt to just catch me as I fell down. Taking it slowly and going myself I did get back down without as much as a scratch. Back at the main beach we kept heading south, scouting out locations for a possible bonfire. We did have to climb up a few coral bluffs to get from beach to beach, but inside one we did find a nice protected place covered with plenty of driftwood. The four of us piled it all together with plans to possibly come back to it the next night or two.

Climbing a few more coral bluffs to get a little further down the beach we thought it would be good to try and make it back to the welder before it became too late. We found a little dirt road running along the beach and followed it until it merged with the main road we had been on before. Along that road we found out what looked to be a local dump, even more trash piled in one section off to the road. Brian found a bike that he took for a little spin around the area but decided it wasn’t worth keeping. There was also a perfectly good albeit a little beat up Playschool house for toddlers just sitting there for the taking. Hey Brittany, Isla has a birthday coming up, right? Maybe there’s room for a play house on Asante? (just kidding) Heading back to the body shop we did find someone there, but it was not the guy in charge and he could not tell us how much it would be to fix our bracket or when we’d have it back. Since we didn’t want to just hand it over and have it come back with a ridiculous price tag we told the guy we be back later when his boss was there.

Walking north this time on the main road on the island we found another path out to another beach and relaxed in the sand while letting the time pass. We did run into another group of people, one woman who owned a vacation home on the northern end of the island and a few friends that were visiting her. They mentioned a few must see things on the island, such as Dean’s Blue Hole, but everything was out of walking distance. We had discussed renting a car for the day, but with the daily rental price of $65 plus fuel, we figured we’d rather save a car rental for Jamaica where we could see and do more. The woman also mentioned that hitchhiking was popular on the island, and if we were willing to split into groups of two we could get anywhere we wanted. Keeping that in the back of our mind we set off on foot one more time to the body shop to find it was closed down for the day at 3:00. Looks like we’d be here until at least Saturday waiting for someone to even talk to about getting it fixed. A little discouraged, we made our way back to Island Breeze to spend a few minutes cooling off in the shade and getting a little more information about the fish fry going on tomorrow. As long as we’re stuck here, we may as well participate in some of the local festivities.

(Above two photos courtesy of Rode Trip)


As promised, a photo of my black eye.

Rough Riders

Wednesday March 27, 2013

I’ll try to keep this post brief since I know I’ve been writing novels lately.

Remember how I said it was almost impossible to tell wave size by photos?  These should help you judge.

(above photos courtesy of Rode Trip)

‘Oh, so this is how far my leash goes…’

Delicious pan fried snapper.