Needing Less Doing More

Tag: doc shedd

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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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]  🙂