Needing Less Doing More

Tag: bahamas

4 Months Out

There is nothing better than to know that you don’t know.

-Lao Tzu (Tao Te Ching)

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NIla Girl through the trees.

As Ren and I drive down US 17 South in a rented 10’ Budget moving truck I realize that I am not sure what our plans are.  Yeah, I know where we are headed and when we have to be at Port Everglades to ship out cargo over to the Bahamas but what about our plans?  We do not even really know what we are doing or where we will be in four months from now.  Part of me is terrified by this fact.  The other part is ecstatic at the prospect of change and adventure.  There is a third part of me also.  the third part is saying, “Yeah, yeah, no plans…great.  Yeah, yeah, excitement…whatever.  But how will you make it happen?”  Everyone would be living like we do if they could answer that question with 100% certainty.

Although we do not know what lies ahead of us four months from now what we do know is that we are about 1/4 of the way into a two year plan.  The two year plan includes traveling on Nila Girl and focusing solely on freedive training and competition.  For two years we will suck up all of our financial hardships, missing our friends and family and coping with out other non-conformities in order to pursue these goals.  This brings me to a valid point and one worth making.  How are we doing what we are doing?  How are we maintaing our relationship along the way.  The short answer and the most relevant one is that we make goals and we stick to them.  If I want to jump ship in a year and abandon sailing it is not an option.  We are committed to two years.  If I get tired of training and competing, too bad, two years.  “Stick to the plan” is a mantra developed by Ren, myself and our buddy, Nick Mevoli.  When faced with a fork in the road traveling through the Caribbean we always fell back on this mantra to help make our decisions.  When I want to jump ahead deeper and deeper in my freedive training, Ren and I rely on this mantra to keep the focus and keep us from getting injured or burnt out.  The simple act of setting common goals together is productive.  It assures both of us that our concerns and needs are being considered.  That our hopes for the future will not be washed up on a Bahamian shore one day where we reach down to pick it up, not even recognizing our hope for what it was.

Setting and sticking to the plan shines a light at the end of the tunnel.  If we get tired, bored or craving stability there is always an exit strategy.  I encourage everyone to grab life by the horns, live for the moment, carpe diem, blah, blah, blah but please and especially if you have a significant other to consider, do not be afraid to commit to a change of plan or at least the option for one even if it is a temporary solution.  It’s ok to make plans and it’s ok to stick by them.  It doesn’t mean you have lost your thrill for life, your edge…it means you care about something or someone other than just yourself.  We are in this together and by having goals and discussing them openly, both partners actually feel like this is true.  Like they are part of something bigger, a team.  The work of a team is a beautiful thing.  I am no lifestyle or marriage counselor.  You’ll smirk to hear that I have been married less than two years.  The advice of goal setting is timeless and transcends my limited life experience. 

Whether you are attacking credit card debt, planning to start a a family or working towards the trip of a lifetime, break the unmanageable , daunting parts of your life into smaller bits.  $40,000 of debt sounds like a lot more than a transitional plan would.  A plan where you never look at the $40,000 but look at the debt in terms of  monthly and yearly goals.  If paying off the debt isn’t a real goal, you will never make it happen.  Sit down with your partner and discuss goals in terms of 6, 12. 2 or 5 year plans.  If is was not for this organized approach to managing our lifestyle two people with mediocre paying jobs like ours could not have ever made this happen.  The finances of this trip must be discussed often, sometimes daily (or every time the talk needs to happen).  Sure the conversation isn’t always pleasant.  Sure the tone becomes accusatory and mocking sometimes but we get through it together and keep each other’s attitudes in check.  Besides, a hostile tone can even be productive.    It let’s people know you care.  Nothing wrong with righteous anger.  We live with the same standards working towards the same goals..sometime grudgingly.  However, this team approach to life makes it a lot easier to assess when one of us looses track of the plan.

I know this little equation sounds a bit cheesy but it’s true:

goals+communication+compromise=anything you want!

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We’re Back

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

-John F. Kennedy

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The freediving crew on the beach, enjoying a day off from the Vertical Blue competition with Nila Girl in the background.

Ren and I are back yall!  We have truly re-threaded ourselves into the fabric of Long Island.  It occurred to me one night when we first arrived again on Long Island.  We embarked on the second of our twice-daily hitchhikes between Salt Pond, where Nila Girl stays and the 20 miles to Dean’s Blue Hole, where we dive.  Usually we hike in the morning, as people are leaving for work and in the afternoon, when people are returning home from work.  This night Ren and friends, Brian Pucella and Will Trubridge finished a spearfishing adventure late.  Ren and I set off after kisses to our friends with a shopping bag full of fish down the long, dark Queen’s Highway back to our home and some supper, which I still had to make.

As it got darker and darker that night it became much harder to find rides.  Long Island is affectionately known as the “family islands” of the Bahamas.  Any good family islander knows that you have to be home for supper if you want to maintain a happy, healthy home.  As the number of churches outnumber bars, restaurants and grocery stores combined, the Bahamian’s have a great sense of core family values.  Perfect for family life, not so helpful when trying to catch a ride after dark, swinging a bag of fish by your side.  We walked along the side of the road, which really doesn’t exist.  There is no “side” of the road.  Only concrete then an abrupt transitional slope of vegetation leading directly into the ocean.  Slapping mosquitos, which were many this particular night, we trudged on in the dark.  The world was quiet except for the sound of our light footsteps smacking the pavement and the occasional gust of wind, which has a character of it’s own out here.

The faint sound of rhythm echoed in our ears.  We stopped and listened closely as the drum beat got louder.  The beat was intensified by horns and a voice.  The darkness of night was interrupted suddenly by lights.  Bright lights!  The lights came careening towards us and we thought what any other hitchhiker might have thought at that moment, “Aliens!”.  We assumed our routine hitchhiking position, Ren in the front me in the back.  We have noticed that my placement at the rear of the hiking train improved our chances of getting rides.  Probably because anyone welcoming a stranger into their car would prefer a women to a smelly, hairy man.  Not that Ren is either smelly or hairy but hey, how is a stranger supposed to know that.  From our routine positions I lifted my right arm straight out and gave the Bahamian “slow down” arm shake.  The sound of an engine coming to a halt woke us from our fantasy that aliens were picking us up.  Hello!  Alien spaceships don’t sound like 1970’s model Ford F-150s…I don’t think they do anyway. 

To our disappointment, we were not being approached by aliens after all.  To our excitement, we looked up at our ride to see the midnight blue F-150 with silver bed rails running down it’s back.  Emerging from the opaque tinted window which was rolling down in front of us was a head of perfectly suave dread locks and beautiful reggae music, that explains the drum sounds.  The dread locks poked their head out and turned down the music just long enough to say, “Whe ya goin’?”  Our usual reply, “As far as you’ll take us.”  Ren jumped in the front seat which was lined with a patterned seat cover.  The old school bench covers, woven with mulit-colored thread.  The kind my brother has been trying to find in the States for his truck.  Throwback seat covers that remind Corey and myself of our Dad’s grey F-150, the manual shift I learned to drive on.  For people that don’t have as many material belongings as the typical American, this guy would sure give Corey something to covet. 

I had two options, squeeze in the middle of the bench between dread lock, ghost rider and Ren, or take my preferred seat in the bed of the truck.  It didn’t feel like a choice to me.  I threw our bag in the back of the truck, stepped on the rear truck tire and swung my leg over the bed rail.  Saddling up against the rear window with my legs sticking straight out towards the tailgate, I slapped mosquito after mosquito all but yelling for the guy to, “Get moving!”  The truck clunked into gear and we were off.  I had an immediate flashback of this time when my family was very young and living in Charleston, SC.  We were in our maroon Astro minivan going, who-remembers-where.  Ahead on the side of the road was an old black man.  The guy must have been 50 or 60 but seemed ancient to me at the time, just having crawled into the double digits myself at the ripe age of 10.  The man was wearing standard blue Dickie pants and jacket set.  He carried a huge black lunch box.  The kind that comes with a full sized thermos.  Your Dad may have had one, mine did.  One hand on the colossal lunchbox, the other outstretched towards the road, thumb pointing straight up, fingers curled in a fist beneath the thumb.  I remember my Dad saying, “If you guys weren’t in the car with me right now, I’d pick that guy up.”  My Mom looked at him in horror.  She couldn’t believe he would suggest such a thing in front of her precious babes. 

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You can never have enough shots like this.

“Oh God, Earl.  Don’t tell me that!” 

“But really, Mari.  He’s just trying to catch a ride home from work.  He’s harmless.” 

“Ugh!” 

That’s when I first realized that everyone was out to get me…and probably nobody was out to get me, all at the same time.  This thought flashed through my head sitting in the back of the truck, wind blowing my hair straight out in front of my face.  I watched the moon rise over the water from the back of that truck.  The moon was blood red then shifting to orange as it flew up from the horizon to give us nature’s street lamp.  The moon rose quickly overhead and shone bright white illuminating the waters, land, the midnight blue truck and me.  The truck became a bullet, shooting down Queen’s Highway and a smile stretched wide across my face.  I imagined watching us from my perch on top of the moon, shooting down the road, three people, strangers communing in the moonlight just trying to get home after a day of work. 

Although NC is our home, this was the perfect way to usher us into what is quickly becoming our second home, Long Island.  I tried my hardest to silently will the truck to go faster.  Like diving down to depth, you reach a certain point and you just want to keep sinking or in this case,  flying down the road.  It didn’t matter at that moment if we ever got home, I was already there.  Nila Girl emerged in the distance and the truck slowed again, this time to drop us off.  Ren  pulled all of the lionfish he had out of the plastic grocery bag nestled between his feet in the cab of the truck.  He gave the lionfish to dread locks, the perfect payment for a ride home, and a pure experience of gratitude.

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Journal to Jamaica Day 2

A journalized account of our non-stop sail through the Windward Passage from Long Island, Bahamas to Port Antonio, Jamaica.

DAY TWO:

PRE A.M. (2:00 A.M.)

Ren and I just switched watches.  After a four hour fit of no sleep I am sitting in the cockpit with Oreo under a waxing full moon, completely exhausted but resigned to my watch.  We passed the “night necklace” we wear while on water like the baton in a relay race.  Dangling from the necklace is a whistle and a strobe…just in case.  However, we mitigate the risk of falling overboard at night by staying in the cockpit at all times.  Never leaning over the lifelines, not even to urinate.  If one of us must go forward, escaping the safety of the cockpit, they must first wake the other person and wear a harness.  The harnesses are made of strips of purple webbing that wrap around both legs and arms, joining up in the middle with a clip that attaches to the jack lines.  The jack lines run the entire length of the boat and are only on deck when we are traveling.  Ren made the harnesses for us before we left.  This precaution may sound like overkill to the sailor already well seasoned by salt but losing each other…well…that would be devastating to say the least and this kind of accident is mostly preventable. 

I just sat back down from tweaking the sails.  Ren’s approach to keeping watch includes constant vigilance to the sails’ shape, our direction and speed.  He is always trying to bring the boat back to a homeostatic condition, pulling in one sheet, relaxing another in his constant attempts to gain speed and efficiency.  It is this commitment to Nila Girl and our ETA that makes Ren a great captain.  Personally I find the tweaking tiresome.  I prefer to view my watch schedule as four hour appointments with myself where I can read, write, type up this blog entry, or spend time with Oreo.  Tweaking sails is a minor inconvenience to the true purpose of watch keeping.  My myriad of activities must also be interrupted-every fifteen to twenty minutes-by a visual sweep of the horizon and radar if we are using it.  So far, no boats on this particular watch.  I could really get some serious things done around here if it wasn’t for all the sailing. 

Oreo is faring well but like me, takes a day or two to get adjusted to the new sleep, or rather, non-sleep patterns.  It has been almost twenty-four hours now since we have parted Salt Pond and he still refuses to pee.  His bladder will give in, it always does, maybe even sometime later today.  Let’s hope he’s not lying in his bed when it decides to throw in the towel.

A.M.

We are all sitting in the cockpit watching the sunrising overhead.  I have always preferred the sunrise to a sunset.  The sunrise, if awake before dawn, is a welcomed friend, come to bring promise of a beautiful and full day ahead, unlike the sunset who is always trying to turn the lights out.  Also, I gain a sense of accomplishment from watching the sunrise.  Any schmuck can catch the sunset but it takes another level of commitment to be up for the sunrise.  This morning, the pressure is off, literally off Oreo’s bladder as he had decided to urinate, finally.  We just did the math and we made about one hundred and two miles from yesterday AM through the night.  We are averaging over five knots, we are making great time.

All three of us are tired this morning.  We will spend the day partly lethargic, sleep tonight when its is our turn and then we will be in the groove tomorrow.  We will feel better rested and in turn healthier by then.  I have failed to mention that I have a set of workouts to be completed every day while traveling.  We made a lot of progress reaching depth at Dean’s Blue Hole.  Diving almost every day I was able to become more and more comfortable with the world record dive I will be attempting…soon.  Since we will not be able to dive for the next few days because we are sailing, I have a daily exercise schedule.  Yesterday included two stretching sessions and a series of eight breatholds called a “breathold table”.  The table was successfully completed and the stretching was great.  Today, two stretching sessions and an arm workout, yum.

MIDDAY

The morning, in one word, sweaty.  Ren caught another dolphin, a bit smaller than yesterday’s, but just as beautiful.  I made tuna salad with the remaining tuna, which turned out excellent (mayonnaise free for all of you training athletes out there) so we kept the dolphin, as previously planned.  Ren fought the fish up to the bow and back down the starboard side of the boat passing the rod around numerous obstacles, shrouds, sails, the stern railing.  Each time he passed the rod around something from one hand to the next, he also had to be careful not to drop the rod or let the dolphin rip it from his hands.  Fishing off of a sailboat is a real challenge.  No fighting chairs, harnesses, or wide open sterns to secure fish from.  Just a bunch of rolling from side to side and nowhere to stand.  After finishing his lengthy dance around the boat Ren pulled the yellow and green fish out of the water and stabbed a knife into his brain, killing him and alleviating the suffering.  He finished pulling the fish all the way into the cockpit, our living quarters, blood everywhere.  We promptly laid a black rag over the dolphin’s eyes to reduce the chances that he would freak out and thrash about if he decided to come back to life.  We watched in amazement as the fish turned colors from green and yellow to stark white and a brilliantly bright light blue color.  His light blue dorsal fin was tipped in black like it had been dipped in ink.  I am not sure if there is an evolutionary advantage to the color change but the radiance of the spectacle is unparalleled  Although, the rapid color adaption of the octopus is a close second only trumped by the vibrant colors of the mahi.

We are now less than forty miles from Inagua where we will be making a turn to the West to head through the Windward Passage and deeper into the Caribbean.  I will not conceal the fact that thoughts of pirates flooded my sleep deprived brain last night.  My only distraction from the thought of six men with semi-automatic weapons ripping our boat apart only to find what we already told then we had, nothing, was the inspired cadence of Mark Twain.     

P.M.     

The wind has picked up and I have the first shift 9:00pm to 1:00am.  Before the shift starts we decide to watch just one episode of our TV series du jour, Pushing Daisies.  Ren and Oreo cuddle up in a corner of the cockpit and I arrange the computer and external speakers so that we can both see and hear the show.  I stay in the cabin while Ren stays in the cockpit to keep a watchful eye on passing ships.  The show if full of really interesting cinematography.  The colors are vivid and the plot and characters almost fantasy-like.  It is an entertaining show.

Watching such a benign program with my little family helps to dry the tears a bit.  They have  been pouring out in fifteen minute bursts at unpredictable times.  There must be something hormonal going on with me because, although we are leaving comfortable territory for the unknown, I still have Ren and Oreo with me.  We are still living a dream.  I predict a combination of emotions, both controllable and incontrollable are at fault here.  Brewing a pot of emotional instability just for me.  Ren is very patient with me right now.  He understands that there is nothing he can do to fix the problem.  His patience is not beyond asking me once, “You still like me don’t you?”  It will pass in another day, whatever it is.  In the meantime, “I want my Mommy!”

After the show I settle in for my watch and am interrupted within the hour by Ren who cannot sleep.  Nothing surprising there, it’s hard to sleep here right now.  He takes the first watch from me and I sleep for one hour and toss for another two.  It is comforting for Ren to take the wheel.  When he is on watch I am exempt from making decisions which is great.  When he take the wheel I can lie down confident that everything will be fine.  The rough seas are going to leave me exhausted.

 

Journel to Jamaica Day 1

DAY ONE:

A.M.

I woke up to the gentle rub of a familiar and rough hand on my back.

“Come on Ash, time to get out of here,” as Ren tried to coax me out of bed.  I whined, and whined and whined, until he had to ask me again.  Not so gently the second time around.  We stayed up too late last night saying goodbye to Jeanette and Brian from Puff.  It’s likely the last time we’ll see them for a few years, unless I get sponsorship to go to the Vertical Blue competition in Long Island this coming November.  Hint, hint.  5:30am was not in my useable vocabulary this morning.  The only thing that was may have been, “this sucks.”  However, when it’s time to go, it’s time to go.  No amount of bitching on my end was going to change the fact that we have ten days to get from Long Island to Jamaica in the forecasted light winds.  Ren thinks it will take at least six days to cover the four hundred mile distance, again, the winds are forecasted as light.

I ripped the covers off of myself and stomped around with a sour frown on my face.  It was dramatic, especially considering I had to make my point in the confined space of our cabin.  All the while Ren is humming and dancing about.  He is more of a morning person than I am.  It’s a quality I love about him.  He bounces out of bed and spreads his contagious good cheer song and dance by little song and dance.  I immediately felt bad for making a tough situation worse with my crappy attitude.  We worked together to haul the dinghy onto the bow of Nila Girl.  By carrying the dinghy on Nila Girl instead of towing her behind us we will gain up to one knot of speed.  We only tow her on shorter, one-day excursions.  Ren, engine already warmed, pulled Nila Girl up to the government dock in Salt Pond where we have been beating around for the last month.  Oreo was awarded one last land pee and I threw away one last bag of trash.  Reluctantly, Oreo and I, answering Ren’s whistle, walked back over to Nila Girl after out ten minute land break.  Ten lousy minutes to last us six days on the boat.  I was looking on the voyage with trepidation.  We neglected to say our goodbyes to Mike and Jackie at Long Island Breeze.  We did not say goodbye to the donkey, Grey Boy, who we made friends with, visiting him nearly every day.  We taught him how to play tug of war with a piece of rope in lieu of nipping at people for affection.  I suppose that’s the nature of the sailing life.  Unparalleled experiences, new friends, landscapes but leaving a wake of farewells behind you.  You are always saying goodbye.  As the captain pulled us away from the dock I said my silent goodbye, shed a tear, straightened the cockpit for travel and went back to bed.

MIDDAY 

We ate leftover lobster and garlicky rice from the previous night’s “goodbye supper” for breakfast.  On the side, some of the homemade blueberry jelly my Grandma canned.  The rice was made garlicky by adding a pickled mixture of whole garlic cloves and gardenier mix Ren’s Mom helped us can.  The mix is perfect to add a punch of flavor to anything or to eat straight, as an appetizer.  The day is hot, sunny and the water a deep purple.  I cried once at the thought of leaving a month’s worth of routine and new friends behind.  Not to mention, the most perfect freedive training alongside world record holder, William Trubridge.  We dove every single day almost, great preparation for the feat ahead.  I always cry when it’s time to move on but the tears dried as Ren reminded me that we are on our way to Jamaica.  The anticipation of the new adventure creeps into all the empty spaces in my heart leaving Long Island has left.  I am ok again.  Oreo is hot this afternoon and may get a haircut tomorrow.  It is particularly hard to keep him comfortable during a passage but it is hard on all of us.  Now back to “The Autobiography of Mark Twain.”  Thanks Mom and Dad…and Corey for bringing it over for me!

P.M.

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Oreo waiting patiently for his supper, which was rarely just dog food.

We caught a skipjack tuna about midday.  Oreo had a supper of tuna, including the roe while we had lightly seared, but slightly overcooked tuna steaks on a bed of pasta.  We also caught a dolphin but readily released her since we had meat already.  The tuna is going fast so we will keep the next mahi we catch.  The sunset was brilliant but foreboding.  Anxiety was starting to creep in as the sun hung lower and lower in the sky.  I always dread the first couple of nights watch.  Everything is intensified at night when veiled in a cloak of darkness.  The wind blows  harder, every bump against the hull is deafening as I imagine the boat twisting in half and breaking apart between waves.  All of this teamed with a little sleep deprivation should be a torture technique.  Tonight could be a long night punctuated with tears as I tend to get homesick while at sea.  No distractions, just your thoughts and a lot of time.

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Awake

I am sitting here on one of our saloon cushions at 1:15am.  At this point, I have already slept for five hours and will go back to sleep after I get out a bit of restless energy.  This kind of midnight sleeplessness happens often now that we are on a boat, without jobs and without a grueling social schedule.  After routinely getting plenty of sleep night after night, the body readjusts to it’s new rhythm.  A more natural rhythm that doesn’t leave the body starved for sleep.  Down in the early evening, up in the morning with a midnight interlude to the sleep.  During the usually quiet, middle of the night, sleep respite is the perfect time to surf the internet if any is available, read a book, or write if the mood strikes.  Sometimes it is Ren awake, sometimes me, but rarely both because as soon as one of us wakes up, the other one instinctively stretches their cramped limbs and discovers they have the entire bed to themselves.  Whoever is not awake slips into an even deeper sleep as they stretch horizontally across the bed.  The v-berth, when occupied by only one person, is the roomiest spot on Nila Girl.  Tomorrow, Ren will be well rested, bright eyed and bushy tailed after ten or eleven hours of uninterrupted sleep. 

At this moment, the wind has been howling for twenty-four hours straight.  A cold front has moved through and Nila Girl is confined to a narrow strip of water called Joe’s Cut located on the northwest side of Long Island.  We made it here two days ago from the balmy and bustling, Georgetown, Exuma and the Captain deemed this place adequate protection during the strong bluster, scheduled to keep our hair tangled for four days.  The blowing wind has offered a unique chance for us to catch up on boat chores.  Today I scrapped glue off the cabin floor while Ren wired an outlet to the v-berth.  I placed random artwork and pictures in attractive places around the boat while Ren replaced the hinge on one of the lockers.  The blowing wind allowed me to finish reading Kate Chopin’s, The Awakening, without guilt. 

When the wind is too strong to sail with, you can use it to rest instead but only after you have adjusted to the sounds of a boat trapped in an intense weather pattern.  The howling is exacerbated against the hull of the boat with small waves splashing against Nila Girl.  Every ill-adjusted halyard running up the mast is audible as it smacks up against the metal.  Ting, ting, ting, ting….arrrgh!  The wind is restful after the first 12 hour period of the storm.  The 12 hours you spend adjusting every ineffectual piece of line and chain to keep it’s clamoring from climbing up your spine while you try to sleep.  Ah, to be blessed with one deaf ear, as I was.  I never really thought I would find a practical purpose for my disability but then again, I never knew I would be living on a boat either.  My stormy nights are simplified by turning over on my left side, exposing my useless right ear to Nila Girl’s commotion.  The Captain resents my potential as he gets up for the tenth time of the night to adjust this or that, because I cannot hear the ruckus outside, but he has his own useful gifts including near x-ray vision, which is annoying to me since I have undergone surgery to improve my eyesight and I still find my capacity for long distance vision inferior to his natural talent.  Oh well, I get over it quick as I turn on my left side and fall fast asleep during the weather fronts.

My brother, Corey is scheduled to fly in the day after tomorrow.  I will spend another windy day tomorrow making two batches of hummus so we have plenty to snack on while he is here.  I worry a bit about the duration of this wind storm since it is Corey’s first vacation in a long time, his first trip overseas, and his first time visiting calm, clear, beautiful waters such as those Ren and I enjoy every day here in the Bahamas.  I hate that instead of leaning his head against the window pain of the small engine plane he is taking from Nassau to Long Island, mouth agape, as he flies over miles of blue, turquoise, and even bluer waters, spotting sharks, fish and sailboats along the way, he will instead be seated upright, white knuckled, gripping the armrests on either side of him, visualizing the small plane catching a gust of the stiff wind, throwing it off course, careening in a death spiral out of the grey sky down to the white capping seas below.  The waves swallowing the plane, burping in contentment with it’s latest meal.  Maybe my imagination has run away with me from slack of ten hour straight sleep, or better yet, maybe my brain is turning to mush from all of the sleep.  Either way, this is what I worry about as I wait for my brother to arrive.  I will pass the time tomorrow preparing for his arrival by making the hummus and finishing up my weekly meal plan. 

Corey will spend his first day here, a windy day, with us on the boat instead of jumping directly into the water to harvest supper as we had hoped.  But the weather will clear by the next day and we will enjoy a half-day family sail south down the coast of Long Island, finishing up the day with the long awaited dive session.  Making sure to harvest Corey’s first lobster supper of his trip.  It’s not just the diving I’m excited to share with my brother.  It’s everything he hasn’t seen yet.  Buying warm coconut bread from one of the local bakeries, shopping in an ill stocked “grocery store” but still finding yourself eating better than you ever could at home, ordering a sweaty Kalik from the only restaurant in town, tasting the Kalik and realizing it is actually terrible beer but nothing short of a cold, canned Budweiser after mowing grass in 90 degree weather could taste better at that moment, toting the laundry to a laundromat on the dinghy while the waves come over the bow and soak you in saltwater, taking pictures of the “end of the road” whatever that may be, walking half way through the island to the top of a hill where you can see both the mighty Atlantic Ocean and the calm Exuma Sound at the same time, passage making on Nila Girl, trying to get a glimpse of the flamingo flocks in the Acklin Islands, not to mention, just chilling in the cockpit with the full moon overhead and a candle flickering on our cockpit table sharing wine and a lobster supper catching up after the longest period we have ever spent apart…ever.  It is going to be great to have our little brother on board.

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Nila Girl’s “Gourmet” Galley #2

Pizza on Pavana

A spoonful of inspiration.

Pizza made with a mahi Banff harvested baked in Pavana’s oven,  served with a salad on the side.

It seems that of all the foods we crave while adventuring on Nila Girl, which are many, pizza is at the top of the list.  It’s hard to find descent pizza in the Bahamas and if you do, it’s not likely to be worth the pretty penny you would spend on it.  Ren and I crave Antonio’s Commentatore pie from back home.  Lots of sauce, garlic, eggplant, basil and two cheeses perfectly melted on top with just the right amount of cheese grease drip when you fold a slice in half.  We miss ordering out a Commentatore and drinking one beer each while we wait for the pizza to be ready for pick up.  We pick up the pie and eat it with lots of crushed red pepper while taking in a movie projected on a king sized sheet in our old living room.  Next year, we’re bringing the projector with us on our cruise.

As Banff of Pavana, Ren and I perused the grocery aisles in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera, we brainstormed about the night’s supper.  Within minutes, and almost jokingly, Ren sighed, “Pizza would be good.”  I groaned and immediately started pouting, knowing that this wasn’t an option until Banff, a beacon of light on our grim pizza situation, said, “Alright, let’s do the pizza thing.”  Banff already had the whole wheat flour and yeast needed to make the dough, which was really the only limiting factor.  Pavana was also adequately overstocked with everything we would need for the top of the pizza or anything else your culinary heart desired.  In short, Pavana was like a floating grocery store, but not Food Lion.  Pavana was a Whole Foods or Fresh Market, complete with organic selections and vegan options.  I think I spent a total of $40 shopping at ‘Groceries a la Pavana’.  Anyway, Banff already had pizza sauce, soy cheese, jalapenos and mahi to be grilled and added to the top.  Nila Girl isn’t exactly shabbily stocked herself.  She was to contribute fresh parmesan, straight off the block (thanks to a little Italian ancestry) and a nice big salad with all the fixings.  We picked up some mushrooms to add to the top, payed out and met Oreo at the grocery store sliding doors where he was keeping a close eye on the golf cart we rented. 

Eager to get back to the boat and start the dough, we finished our uneventful self-guided golf cart tour of Spanish Wells and hopped back into Banff’s dinghy to head back to the strong ships…

Digression:

Spanish Wells was uneventful if you consider I stayed up half the night researching the small island and it’s history of inbreeding.  It is safe to say that I became momentarily obsessed with the history of Spanish Wells, which includes Anglo-Saxon settlers, racial pride, and a long line of inbreeding.  I searched the internet for pictures of the people and family trees with branches intertwining like the trunk of a ficus.  Needless to say, I was disappointed when we got there.  First, the long history of inbreeding was not readily apparent in the people.  They looked normal, just with a backwoods sense of style.  Second, the place reminded me of my hometown of Richlands, NC but Richlands about 30 years ago.  Industrious people with a big red streak in a mostly white town.  Nothing unusual about Spanish Wells if you are already from the rural south.

We needed to shower, feed Oreo and pack our “supper time bag” (a waterproof bag made of recycled sailcloth by Ella Vicker’s Recycled Sailcloth Collection, perfect for keeping food items dry on the wet floor of a dinghy) for Pavana.  Snapping photos of the locals while heading out of the harbor area, I spotted something strikingly red floating in the water.  so red, it reminded me of that scene from the book, The Giver, where the young giver gets his first glimpse of color in an otherwise black and white world.  The color he saw was red and the imagery was powerful.  We approached the bobbing red objects with caution until…holy geez!  The floating red balls were bright ripe tomatoes with the occasional red bell pepper sprinkled in.  Apparently a box of fresh tomatoes and peppers had fallen off the dock right into the dinghy’s path, and nobody was claiming them.  Guess what goes surprisingly great on pizza…yep!  Tomatoes and red bell peppers.

Banff weaved in and out of the crimson gates as Ren and I stretched to retrieve very piece of valuable food we could.  Trust me, if retrieving floating food with a dinghy was an olympic sport, we would be representing Team USA.  A local, who was working on his boat engine nearby (I told you they were industrious people), noticed us scrambling and joined in on the aqua-harvest.  He relinquished his bounty to us poor sailors and we greedily grabbed the goodies.  Besides being on a budget, we were Team USA of the Aqua-Harvest event, not him.  He should check himself!  Ah but the pizza was looking better and better.  We wiped the drool from our mouths with our sleeves and continued on to the boats.

The four of us, Oreo was always welcomed on Pavana, met back up on Banff’s boat around 6:30 or 7:00, all freshly showered and hungry.  Banff had already let the dough rise and it was time for the art to begin.   Ren saddled up on the settee with a cold Budweiser and watched the magic happen.  Oreo sat right between my feet and waited for me to drop some magic on the floor.  Banff worked on shaping the whole wheat dough and grilling the fish while I threw together the salad and prepped the toppings for the pizza.  Cucumbers, chopped spinach, grated parmesan, tomatoes, squash, zucchini and some basil colorfully lit up the stainless steel mixing bowl the salad was contained in.  For a dressing, I mixed together olive oil and pear infused balsamic vinaigrette.  Banff opted for Amy’s Goddess dressing (a noble choice).  When the pizza dough was sculpted, Banff added jarred tomato sauce and swirled in spoonfuls of my Nannie’s homemade pesto, which I will be bringing a lot more of for our next cruise.  Pesto is good for a lot more than just pizza and pasta, folks.  The base of the pizza was painted perfectly with the sauces before flaked bits of lightly seasoned, grilled mahi were sprinkled in.  The already radiant pizza required some more green so chopped spinach and jalapenos were thrown on top.  The tomatoes and red bel peppers we found were sliced and delicately arranged on the bed of spinach, offsetting the green.  A few sliced mushrooms, the yellow soy cheese and white parmesan…voila!  The beauty of the meshing pizza ingredients made the raw colors palatable.

Banff popped our canvas into the oven and the three of us started giggling in anticipation.  Oreo did not giggle.  In fact, he was pretty pissed that I had prepared my share of the meal without dropping a single slice of anything.  Don’t worry, he always gets his share of, well, everything that we cook.  So that we didn’t start gnawing our fingers off, we passed the pizza cooking time in the most painless way possible.  Ren and I cracked open a couple of beers and the crew settled in for two episodes of the hilarious TV series, 30 Rock.  The laughter was the only thing strong enough to distract our appetites.  Of course, we checked on the pizza no less than four times while watching.  The hardest ten minutes of the evening came when the pizza was taken out of the oven and placed on the counter to cool.  Who’s idea was it to let food cool anyway?  We stared at the pie and suffered through the last ten minutes of our second episode.

Finally, the moment arrived.  The pizza was judiciously served in even amounts to prevent WWIII.  Since I am an athlete in training, i got a fair share of the pie too, despite being of the fairer sex.  The salad was dispersed, a mere afterthought lying next to the pizza.  A fluffy side dish to keep our slices comfortable before we devoured them.  We ate, savoring every bite, while watching a third episode of 30 Rock.  If you haven’t seen the show yet, you’re walking backwards.  We shared a solitary tear when supper was finished and the dishes were licked clean.  Banff took Nila Girl’s crew back to our boat and we said our goodbyes.  You see, homemade pizza was the perfect last supper to share with our new friend on Pavana.  We parted ways with a good taste left in our mouths, already eager for our next encounter with Banff.

Mahi Pizza (Pavana Style)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Ingredients:

1 grilled Mahi steak, lightly seasoned

1 cup cheddar or cheese substitute

1/2 cup parmesan (NO substitutes)

1/2 cup canned pizza sauce

1/4 cup pesto

Our Pizza Toppings:

spinach

tomatoes

jalapenos

red bell peppers

mushrooms

*Get creative with your toppings.  Include on your pizza anything that is on the verge of spoiling.  This avoids food waste and makes the pizza interesting.

Dough:

1 cup warm water

1/2 cup seawater

1 tblsp powdered yeast

1 tblsp sugar (we use agave nectar)

4 cups unbleached flour or wheat flour

Combine yeast warm water sugar and seawater and let stand 5 minutes.  Mix in flour and let stand until dough doubles in volume.  When dough has doubled, punch down and knead.  Let rise again by 50%.  Punch and knead again.  Take out 1/3 of the dough for the pizza crust.  Bake the rest as bread!

Mix “pizza herbs” into the dough (basil, parsley, etc). Spread the dough out on the cooking surface (foil works well on the boat).  Cover the dough with pizza sauce and add half the cheese. Let the toppings begin.  Add your toppings and cover with the remaining cheese to hold it all together.

Bake at 425 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  Let the  pizza cool on a cooling rack for at least 10  minutes before cutting.

Enjoy!

NOTE: I never measure amounts when I cook and guessed all the ratios in the recipe above.

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Acquiring Crew-Part 2

“It is surprising how many great men and women a small house will contain”

-Thoreau

Nina stayed at the house with us for three days.  As Nila Girl’s leave date approached we were not eager to leave our new friend behind quite yet.  We were sharing experiences; she introduced us to the movie, Taxi Driver…which disturbed our sleep, we showed her the value of a home cooked lobster supper.  She engaged me in really fulfilling breakfast conversation, we took her diving.  It was a symbiotic relationship that needed more time to develop.  Against our initial gut-reaction, which was to haul away and leave a trail of tears behind us, we invited Nina to crew along from Green Turtle Cay, Abacos to Harbour Island, Eleuthera.  It would be two full days of sailing.  We warned her that she may get sick, the weather could get rough, we didn’t have facilities to urinate in, etc.  Without batting an eye, I told you she has a pure sense of adventure, she agreed not to complain about the aforementioned shortcomings and spent the rest of the day canceling and re-booking flights, and I mean the entire day.

A hint of apprehension came while Ren and I were loading Nila Girl up with the personal effects we had brought to Doc’s house.  Laundry, food items, toiletries, etc. filled the bottom of our dinghy.  After we offloaded our belongings we started carting Nina’s stuff over, and kept carting, and kept carting.  With the hard bottomed rolling duffle she had it was apparent that when she booked her vacation she was not anticipating a stay on a sailboat.  And if she was, she had no idea how to pack for it.  This, however, was not her fault but I admit, I panicked a little when the walls of our 10’ beam boat began to collapse in around me as more stuff came piling in.  It wasn’t just the sheer volume of extra things we were taking on that caused the trepidation but the idea of letting a near stranger into our intimate little nest.  The boat is small and Ren, Oreo and I are already exposed to too much in our tight little space.  For example, I can smell and hear Ren pooing while I’m cooking breakfast just 10’ away.  When Oreo got sick from eating sand, he barfed up the fish skin he ate just 4’ from our pillows.  We woke, not to the sound of him barfing, but to the smell of rank fish.  A lot of love and trust make living in this constricted space possible.  I was concerned about how well Nina would fit in to this, and not necessarily with her comfort level but with mine.  A strange girl peeing off the side of the boat just seconds from my husband.  Things could get weird pretty quick if the situation wasn’t handled tactfully.  Ren left me alone on Nila Girl to unpack and organize our things and Nina’s many bags.  I sat alone on the settee for a moment as he ran the dinghy back to the dock to retrieve Oreo and our new crew member.  As I sat, I though to myself, “Well hell, there’s no turning back now.  The sooner I get all of this stuff put into a proper place, the sooner I can regain a sense of control,” which, unfortunately, my character needs.

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Nina Sernacker, Nila Girl’s new crew. Stay tuned for more info on this author’s new book.

With about two minutes to spare before everyone arrived, I found a place for everything and threatened the rest of the crew when they did arrive that everything should STAY in its place.  After the threat, Nina explained to us that her family was incredibly apprehensive about her decision to board a boat of strangers and set sail.  Turns out we weren’t the only nervous cast of characters in the play.  Over Skype, the captain and I had to reassure, as best as we could, Nina’s Mom and sister that our intentions were not to lure her in to a death trap, knowingly.  We had never murdered anyone on the high seas, yet.  And our pirate lifestyles were limited to Ren’s beard, the pour of rum into our coffee (pirate breakfast), and the occasional pillage.  In turn, our family had to be convinced that Nina wasn’t a “friendship scammer”.  Picking us out of the crowded harbor to gather intel about our boat and relay the valuable information to her counterparts who would ambush us at sea.  If this were true of Nina’s intentions, it would make her both the worst friendship scammer and best actress in history.  The worst scammer because of all the boats in the White Sound anchorage, all but us clearly had enough resources to ensure the most basic comforts while sailing.  Comforts such as a head that you can urinate in, or a shower even.  These comforts must have been lost on Nina because she choose Nila Girl.  A boat where she was required to pee in a bottle (also sharing the apparatus that funnels the pee into the bottle with me) or pee overboard in front of the whole world.  She was required to shower out of a bucket, outside in the cockpit (which she opted to refuse during her time aboard).  She would be the best actress in history because not even Martin Scorsese could script the laundry list of questions and concerns that Nina poured on us.  She responded to our directions and plans with the utmost concern, verging on panic at times.  None of her questions were of the type that would be helpful in conveying usable information to scamming counterparts.  She had no clue about our direction, coordinates, firearm situation, communications, nothing!  These simple facts alone were enough to convince us that she was crew material, not a really bad scammer.  A bed was made for Nina on the starboard side settee, the beautiful, yellow curtain/door for the v-berth was pulled shut (thanks Nannie!) and we closed our eyes, excited about the leisurely sail we had ahead of us the next morning and slightly nervous in anticipation of how our new situation was going to shake down.

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Ashley and Nina bonding in the settee.

We began a nice two day sail over to Harbour Island, Eleuthera at about mid-day the next morning.  We were waiting to depart for high tide so we could traverse a particularly shallow part of the path.  Before our departure we had time to treat ourselves to another breakfast at the Green Turtle Club.  Breakfast is definitely my favorite meal of the day.  It also happens to be the most affordable meal to eat out (win, win, win).  We ate, stowed our gear, pulled the anchor and were off.  The wind was nice, the company was stellar and the sunset later was magic. 

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Nothing like a little yoga to keep the muscles loose under sail.

Along the way, Nina and I enjoyed stretching on the bow of Nila Girl while Ren took pictures.  We listened to good music the whole way ending in blue grass, which Nina loves, surprising us since she lives in NYC.  Nina and I practiced our amateur psychology as we discussed our families, work, fears, passions, blah, blah, blah.  I’m sure Ren and Oreo were wondering when the chickens would stop squawking…which would be never….muhahaha.  I took full advantage of having a female companion on board.  You know, another female, who would actually answer your questions in a timely manner after you ask them.  Another female who would patiently listen to your rendition of the night’s dream before sharing hers.  Having Nina on board for conversation was a luxury.  Ren, eager to make Harbour Island, suggested that we sail through the night.  I was not as eager to subject our new crew to that kind of treatment, meaning, an overnight sail.  He shortly rescinded his threat of a night passage when his stomach began to growl and he realized his chances of a descent meal were greatly reduced if we were not at anchor.  Also, the path was a treacherous one at night.  We would be able to navigate more safely during the day, with the sun overhead.  We dropped our hook in  a desolate and protected place called Lynyard Cay.

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Nina, throwing the peace sign, happy as a lark under sail.

Leaving Lynyard early the next morning, Ren and I let Nina sleep in as we prepped ourselves and Nila Girl for the ocean crossing making Harbour Island would require.  Letting her sleep seemed like the descent thing to do but proved to be a mistake.  Having your breakfast down, things stowed, coffee or tea made and morning constitutional expelled before letting the ocean push you around all day is key to having the most pleasant day of sailing possible, despite the conditions.  It is not prudent to wait for Mother Ocean to kick you in the face before attempting to cook breakfast, and you wouldn’t want to miss breakfast!  Once the motion of the ocean begins, the time spent below deck, in the cabin, must be limited, otherwise you run the risk of being punched in the gut by the nausea of seasickness.  This is precisely the ill fate that awaited our newest crew.  It was our fault for treating her like a passenger, not a crew member, by letting her sleep.  Melville warned against sailing as a passenger as opposed to crew in chapter one of Moby Dick, which I know because Nina read this aloud to us while sailing.

She spent the sick day lying about the cockpit, swallowing bits of vomit just to keep it all down.  Ren assured her that she was earning her sea legs by hanging tough through the sickness.  Landfall at Harbour Island couldn’t have come soon enough for Nina.  When it did, an elated smile washed over our three faces.  We entered the precarious inlet and were rewarded with the flat calm  waters of the harbor.  The shallow harbor floor was littered with huge starfish, nestled in stark white sand.  The captain picked out a quiet spot to anchor Nila Girl where we saw Puff anchored just behind us.  Puff is a mini-pirate ship looking sailboat belonging to our friends Brian and Jeanette Pucella, who are also from NC.  Needless to say we dropped the hook, met up with the sea-weary Brian and high tailed it to land with our libations, avoiding the additional cost of buying drinks at the resort bar where we tied up the dinghies.  We drank and decompressed while Oreo enjoyed peeing on every manicured grain of sand at the resort.  He ran through the neat Zen garden of a beach, peeing and dragging his feet through the little sand rows.  We didn’t even try to stop him.  He deserved the moment.  When we finally limped back to the boat, we made a gorgeous and substantial supper and swallowed the meal and the day down.  All apprehensions relieved through a successful trip, drinks and food.

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Passing By-By Ren

“Set your course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship.”

-Omar Bradley

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Ren and Ashley, smiling despite the beard.

Ashley and I have been on this trip now for over two months and really the only regret I have is passing by places we have yet to explore.  It’s easy to have  someone tell us “Hey you should go there or here or….” wherever it might be and pass all these wonderful places.  The land is one thing but what about what we are missing beneath us?  I have been on this lobster kick and for good reason. We don’t really get to eat lobster much back in NC.  One of the reasons we came on this trip to begin with was to eat from the sea and here we are passing by an amazingly rich area of seafood only to arrive in a port of overcrowded, overfished areas all for what seems to be a good internet connection or a place where other cruisers will be.  Not that this is a bad thing because it’s not.  There really is not much better then meeting new people  and hearing their stories of how they arrived in the same crowded port and their experiences along the way.  But as I look back on it I still think about everything we passed in the night.  Every hidden ledge under our keel with an army of lobsters in its crevice.  “We will come back to it later” is how we justify it.  “We are on a timeline” we mutter.  It’s true, we are on a timeline and there is only so much you can see.  I guess that is true with life in general.  I feel like one of the most important things in life is to see and to meet and to explore as many things and people and places as you can in order to understand and appreciate and even under-appreciate these things.  If you have never seen it or experienced it or never met he or she then how can you judge it?  I guess you can take another person’s word for it but that is not giving it justice. 

As I write this we are anchored in Harbor Island, Eleuthera.  Not really my kind of place.  A Bahamian island with a Hamptons, NY flare.  The super wealthy have ruined it’s small island charm bringing their money and causing prices to rise which in turn has increased crime by the locals probably trying to keep up.  It’s kind of not right.  Green Turtle Cay is the opposite.  No apparent crazy money, no crime, no problem.  The funny thing is that they really have no idea how great they have it on Green Turtle.  No one is hungry, no one appears to be on drugs…..

However, they are all hoping now that their boat will come in with the “High Class” folks with dollars to spend.  “I just wish enough people would come to keep the restaurants in business” says Julie Farrington of Island Properties Management.  So where do you draw the line.  Unfortunately I think it is inevitable.  The ultra wealthy or their extremely fortunate children will arrive and poison it with their over complicated, over ambitious  homes and boats and things that really just don’t matter.  Along with an attitude of total disregard of those things that do matter.  Let me tell you what matters.  People matter.  The environment matters.  If you have to step on any of these things to obtain something, then to me, you don’t matter.

So why do I feel like I’m missing something on this trip?  Mainly because I haven’t eaten enough lobster.  And here I am, 6 miles as the crow flies, from the commercial lobstering capital of the Caribbean, Spanish Wells.  This place is where Red Lobster gets all there crayfish.  No wonder I’m striking out.  Time to move on down the road to a place where living is more simple and people are more simple and life takes on an old meaning and at the same time a new one.  Ashley and I are so very fortunate.

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The Blues

“…You were only waiting for this moment to be free”

-The Beatles

6 days now in the “Real Bahamas”.  No casinos in Nassau, no cattle boats, just locals.  Let me tell you the first thing you will notice about the island nation.  The water is always four shades of blue.  When the ocean floor is sandy the water is a brilliant Carolina blue.  If you aren’t familiar with Carolina blue, think Tarheels.  If you can’t think Tarheels, you have other issues.  When the floor is grassy the water turns into a darker royal blue color.  Think, Blue Devils…or if you prefer, as I do, don’t think about them.  When the floor is rocky with coral reef, the blue is more turquoise.  A nice transition between the sand and grass.  And when the water gets deep, the blue is a dark, tempting, navy color.  My only wish is that I could swim through each stratification of color and bottle the different blues.  I’m sure with a little food coloring you could sell the bottled blues to the tourists.

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Oreo boy sporting the lobster scarf his Grammy made him.

We are now in Green Turtle Cay, on the Atlantic side of the Abacos, where we have run into luck.  A friend of ours, John Shedd, happens to own a house here.  He has insisted that we take advantage of some solid ground, a bed that doesn’t move and a….SHOWER!  Of course, with some reluctance, we took him up on his offer.  John, we will never be able to pay back your generosity.  So yes, your protagonists have found themselves in another fortuitous situation with access to a house.  Living next to us is the caretaker of the property, Ms. Julie, her husband, and their son David, who happens to be an excellent freediver.  In fact, we managed to talk David into taking us out for a dive, which didn’t take much effort.  The guy has lived on an island his whole life.  His blood needs the water in a different way than the rest of us water mammals.  The island people feel closer and live closer to the water.  If only they could breath it.

We have met a friend here on the island, Nina.  She is traveling alone from New York City, where the water is not blue, and the saltwater content in her blood is just a relic of our evolutionary process.  She is a teacher and a writer who we invited to come stay at the house with us.  She spent the first part of her vacation on Treasure Cay only to find herself on Green Turtle Cay where the non-authenticity of Treasure Cay became immediately apparent.  Treasure Cay is resort Cay.  There are shops surrounding the resort and this co-dependent nature of resort and surrounding shops masquerades itself as a community.  Much like a series of American suburbs whose center is comprised of no less than one Target, a Wal-Mart, Lowe’s Foods, Great Clips, Walgreens, China One Take-Out, Tony’s Pizza, Barnes and Noble, and Old Navy.  A strip mall or two next to a housing development is not a community.  These development situations lead to depression because they lack something.  There is a key ingredient that everyone knows is missing but the ingredient is hard to identify.  The unknown variable is soul.  There is no soul.  There is no artist, musician, assemblage of free thinkers, the heartbeat of a community.  The elements that make up a “downtown”.  Unlike Treasure Cay, Green Turtle has soul.  Green Turtle operates as it’s own collective even when there are no white people around to buy up all the postcards.  The people are beautiful and patronize each other.  They go to church on Sunday, they fish and lobster, they bake bread, they rent houses, they have parties where the whole island shows up (which we were privy to attending).  For this reason, Nina could not return to Treasure Cay, so we invited her to stay on with us in Green Turtle.  I knew she was friend and travel companion material after we both agreed that a perfect breakfast, such as french toast, is ruined when the chef does not use enough egg wash per piece of bread.  A friendship was forged over a detestation of dry french toast.

As I mentioned, David agreed to take the four of us diving.  After the french toast discussion, it was decided that we would eat a nice french toast breakfast on the boat (that I would cook to ensure proper egg wash to bread ratio) then have David pick us up at Nila Girl on his boat for the dive.  I should mention that Ren and I have cultivated a natural circadian rhythm for island time, which we are predisposed to anyway.  For example, this is how the dive morning went:

“Yes David, we will meet you at Nila Girl at 10:00 sharp where you can pick us up in your boat and take us for a little dive.” 

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Ren and David with their bounty.

Bermudian accent: “Ok guys.  No worries if I am 5 or 10 minutes late.”

“No David, see you soon!”

10:00 arrives.  The cast of three + Oreo are on Nila Girl, having just arrived.

“Oh hey David.  We have just managed to put the french toast in the pan.  Breakfast will take at least 15 more minutes to prepare, 20 to consume, then we have to suit up.  That’s Ok though right?  Does not your life revolve around us?”

“Oh sure guys, that’s fine.  It’s Sunday and all I want to do is wait on your American asses and then show you all my special diving spots even though the weather is not favorable.  You know us Bahamians, too nice to say no to you demanding devils.”

“Oh David, you’re the best!”

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There’s nothing attractive about pics of dead fish, however, lobster are absolutely delicious!

That’s exactly how it went before we managed to make our way onto David’s boat for the dive.  He first took us to a spot for lobster…which proved to be fruitful.  The spot was not an extraordinary dive as it was pretty shallow with sporadic coral life.  We managed to scrape supper together in about an hour in the form of 11 lobsters, one NC sized.  I’m not bragging, I’m just recounting the facts.  This may sound like an absurd number of lobsters but rest assured, the meat is already consumed.  The second dive spot was special.  It was the kind of dive people pay big bucks to go on.  An underwater playground of fish, sharks, and four humans.  We pulled up to the spot and left all fishing gear in the boat.  It’s not the kind of place you take from.  Leave only fin splashes, take only pictures kind of place.  We anchor in about 20 feet in sand and swim over to the reef.  At this point we are offshore and are in an area just inshore of the reef where we are completely protected.  The depth at the reef was about 30 feet.  The four of us cruise along, checking out the fish, blah, blah, blah.  The spot was good and the reef came all the way to the surface of the water, creating almost surf-able waves.  However, I was hoping for a little more.  I was hoping that we would go somewhere where I could fly.  That’s when I saw David and Ren swimming through a break in the reef.  I finned over to the break that reminded me of the Oracles from The Never Ending Story.  Each side of the reef wall towered above me.  You enter the “other side” through a huge crevice in the towering reef.  As I swam through the crevice, I looked down to see the bottom drop out from under me.  The 30 foot bottom gave way to 80 feet just on the other side of the Oracle.  This is 80 feet, Bahama style.  Meaning, you could see blades of grass and grains of sand on the bottom.  Looking down the 80 foot drop, a Bahamian reef shark swam by, followed by a school of Bermuda chub. 

Damn it!  There is no way, other than through video (come ON Ren!) to convey the feeling of being suspended over deep water able to see the bottom below.  It would be like jumping off an 80 foot building but not falling, just riding the wind, floating like a bird.  My first instinct was to fly.  This is how I do  it:

I nestle myself back over the reef which is protruding through the surface of the water in some spots.  So I’m suspended in one or two feet of water.  I tuck back in the reef so I cannot see over the edge.  Then, in a sudden burst of energy, I pull myself past the wall of the reef as fast as I can, hold my breath, and soar over the edge of the reef into 80 feet of nothing.  I “jump” off the edge of the building and free fall down to the sandy bottom.  This is the only way I have learned to fly without growing wings, which i have been trying to do for some time now.

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On Doc Shedd’s porch, chilling and grateful for his generosity.

After my flight I look up at Nina and she says something striking.  She says, “This is so beautiful  I don’t even know what to do!”.  I almost cry when she says this because I know exactly what she means.  When your heart fills up completely full and there’s not room for anything else without it overflowing.  It fills with gratitude.  To whom?  Who knows.  For what, everything I just described to you.

Needless to say, we finished the night off with a few Budweisers, some lobster rolls with Thai sauce, lobster tails with red curry sauce and vegetable brown rice.  And yes, Oreo ate lobster too.  In fact, he has a special bandana made by his Grammy Nancy that he wore just for the occasion (see picture).

To learn to fly, contact us at [email protected]  🙂