Saturday, January 28, 2017

When you don't have an address - the flip side of paradise


My nose is an icicle. Apart from my icy forehead, it’s the only part of me exposed to the artic air. Beside me the captain lumbers. He is a hibernating bear. If it wasn’t for his body heat, I’d have died during the night.
Outside there is the constant thwap thwap of some boat’s halyard’s and then she howls – the wind, through all the masts in the boatyard. It’s eery. And it lets me know it’s going to be even colder outside. God forbid one of us has to use a toilet. The walk across the yard is unfathomable.
 A week ago we arrived back in Florida, back to our boat. As we drove, we peeled off layers of Canadian winter clothes, migrated from coats, wool hats and leather boots to rubber flip flops. I announced the rising temps on our dashboard as we made it further and further south. And when we arrived, there was a full week of shorts and t-shirts and big silly grins on our faces.
But then winter followed us here, and it does not care about our lack of insulation. It doesn’t give a damn that when boats are on dry dock and you are silly enough to live onboard, you cannot use your own toilets and have to walk half a kilometer across the yard to use the grimy public ones…
We thought we were quite clever back in August, buying a car to take on an epic road trip – all to avoid working on the boat in the excruciating heat. We’d come back in January, we said. We’ll do the work in the cooler weather we said. Well here it is. I was far warmer in Canada on the minus 21C days. At least there was heat.
There’s a boat behind us that sits quietly for days at a time, waiting for it’s sensible owners who come down from wherever their home is, when the weather is good. And they work on her a bit, getting her ready for a season in the Bahamas, and then they go home again.
Home. It turns out that it’s not just a concept. Home is where the heart is, and all that. Nope. Those of us who have no home – except one that floats – come face to face with this all the time. “We live on our boat!”. “But where is ‘home’ really?”
For JW and I, the issue is even more serious. We have never lived together in either of our home countries. If we wanted to, it would involve a lot of immigration red tape. We lived in Ghana, we live on a boat. People thought it was exotic when we lived in Ghana, but this living on a boat?! We’re practically insane.
And to border patrol agents, we’re a couple of potential drug smuggling, tax evading, dirty-hippie, good-for-nothings.
We came through the border from Canada, like all the day trip shoppers in the queue of cars. And then we pulled up to the little window, handed over our passports and said those fateful words. “Where’s home?” “On a boat!”
“Please pull over to the right and enter through door 2.”
Oh no! And so we did. As all the people with homes drove through without incident.
Three hours later, we emerged from that interrogation shaken visibly. I wanted a cigarette and I don’t even smoke! I wanted a whisky too but had to make due with warm Diet Pepsi that I’d left in the car when we went through Door 2.
The moral of that story was ‘NEVER SAY YOU LIVE ON A BOAT.’ Even if it’s true. And if you are part of a couple where neither is legally allowed to live in each other’s home country, just give two separate addresses. Even if it’s not true.
It turns out that our officer-de-jour was hell bent on catching us out, proving we were smuggling something, evading something, living illegally in the states. Because no one lives on a boat, so we MUST be lying! In order to catch us out he interviewed us together, then threw a piece of paper at me and shouted, separated us and interviewed us with the same questions in different forms.
“Where do you work?”
“We don’t”.
“What do you mean you don’t work?!”
“Ok then, where do you pay taxes?”
“We don’t.”
“What?!!!! How can you not pay taxes?”
“Well neither of us work or own any property in either of our countries of origin and since we don’t live in any of those countries…”
“Stop, stop talking.”
“So,” He asked, with a snide demeanor, “you say you live on a boat?! Where is your home port then?”
“Toronto, in Canada, but the boat has never, and will never go there.”
“Why not?!”
“Well it’s too cold, and we’d have to pay duties and taxes…”
Eyeroll.
“So where are you going in this boat when you get to it?”
“Bahamas.”
“WHERE in the Bahamas?!”
“Well it’s a sailboat, so hopefully lots of places.”
That was obviously taken as insolence. He was sooooo unimpressed.
“Where will you dock the boat? What will be the marina base?”
“None. We anchor everywhere.”
Big big eyeroll. “Go sit down!!!!”
He then called me up alone and asked me “what contraband items am I going to find out there when I search your car?!”
So, shaking in my seat, I admitted to the bag of pitted dates I’d bought at Costco a week before…
“What?! Dates?!” He guffawed, rolled his eyes and dismissed me. And the dogs descended on our car.
So nearly three hours after it had begun, he called us both to his desk and admitted he could find nothing to hold us for or deny us entry. And he confided in us, “If you don’t want this to happen every time you come into the states, don’t say you live on a boat!!!”
So there it is. Our lifestyle is socially and legally unacceptable.
And it sucks when we are in a boatyard too. Way too hot or in this case, bloody cold. I can see my breath as I write and my fingers are seizing up. Also, when we are out there on the ocean there are storms and bad seas. Lots of things suck.
It’s definitely not always paradise. But it is amazing. It’s freedom. And when it’s good it’s nature and beauty and long walks on uninhabited beaches. 
 =============================================================================
But not today. Not this month. All this work will lead to one of those days, though. And then it will all be worth it.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Happy birthday from another world


My bum is numb. Most of my outer layers of skin have lost feeling, but for the random involuntary shivers. This hockey rink is freezing. Despite my efforts to stay warm – donning a full body sleeping bag/coat, thick stodgy Uggs, and matching teddy bear hat and mittens, complete with bulbous knitted nose and ears. Very chic.
I sip at my flask of pretend coffee, wiping the deep red wine stains from my lips after each little swig. I’m trying to fit in here and hoping my teeth aren’t noticeably purple/grey.


The parents in the stands jump and shout after each play. “Noah! Rebound control buddy!!!” It’s all very aggressive and serious. The players out there are 7 and 8 years old. The smallest one is my nephew.
It is our last day in Canada – unless the winter storm warning in effect delays us by a day. We’ve been here, visiting the house I grew up in, for over two months. At once I am sucked back into the rhythm of suburban winter life, and also repelled and alienated by the contrast to the life I’ve led for the past 21 years away.
My captain – so far out of his ocean realm, sits beside me on the stands, enthralled by the fast paced game on the ice below. His new cozy winter toque, pulled down over his ears, he blows into his bright red, dry and freezing hands in the futile attempt to warm them. I’ve dragged him here, into my family, my past, my people. And despite hockey’s foreign rules and cultural intricacies, he has fit right in.
Hot chocolate, egg nog, minus 21 temps. He’s shoveled snow, used the snow blower, poured warm water on our frozen car doors to get them open. Welcome to Canada baby!

I cannot believe it’s been 4 months since we left Shiloh and our sailing life behind – left her to face hurricane Matthew alone while we visited potato festivals in West Virginia and sampled Moose pie in Newfoundland. We 'oohed' and 'aahed' at the colours of the Cabot trail in Cape Breton, and marvelled at the 40 ft tidal swing at the Bay of Funday. We walked the red sand beaches of Prince Edward Island and sampled the world's best scallops in digby Nova Scotia.... Luckily Shiloh and her boatyard friends all weathered the storm without a scratch.







It’s been months since I had to steer the 15 ton boat up to a fuel dock, weather a storm, navigate a port entry… All my life stresses have been replaced by GPS driving stresses, finding motels, and finally juggling all the family and friend visits over the holidays.
Everything about life is in flux. Within a few days we will evolve from our hats and scarves to capris and flip flops.
Everything has been in flux – we’ve visited over 80 cities, towns, villages, islands in 2016. We are lucky. And yet the worst tragedy to befall a mother is my reality.
There is the matter of my six year old son, who today would be eighteen.
There are things I can reconcile – weather, financial strains, family differences, friends who disappoint.
But my baby boy – the one who coveted his can of red Pringles, who cuddled all the girls and declared that food is not food without rice! My Shiloh – who loved Power Rangers and Bob the Builder and Spiderman. My little guy, with stubby brown fingers and a soft blond peach fuzz on his silky little neck…  that he was born 18 years ago today. I cannot reconcile this in my feeble mommy brain. My mommy heart has missed the years between 6 and 18 where my boy would have grown, but where instead there was a void. A void within my heart, a place where the world stopped spinning and simply sat, dumbfounded by a loss so great.
 

So today, as I watch my little nephew barreling down the ice, caught up in the spirit of the game, I decide there is no reconciling the things that happen in this life.
We simply find ourselves in places in time and we must soak them in. We must exist in the here and now – all the ‘what ifs’ and the ‘could haves’ held at bay. Life is in this moment. This right here. The smell of warm chocolate contrasted by the bitter cold air and the cry of the overbearing parent.  The sour kick of red wine with the metallic aftertaste of the flask. My boy is gone but this boy is here, and he is life – all new and hopeful. And there is love that transcends. It holds families together, it holds us all together across time and space. But all we have really is what is in front of us right now.
I have memory, and love and family and the frivolous concept of plans. Adventures await.
For now, happy birthday my angel boy and Go Adam! Our boy of the day.




Saturday, July 30, 2016

Stillness, sting rays and canned peas


I could count the hours until this is over. In fact that’s exactly what I’ve been doing for days. Within 24 hours we will be in international waters, leaving the Bahamas behind for the hurricane season, heading for Ft Pierce and destinations further north.
It could be said we’ve taken 6 months of Bahamian island hopping bliss for granted and now it’s all about to disappear behind us in a blue haze…
But that’s not true. The truth is that I pinch myself (well not literally) all the time. The things we see, feel, and are surrounded by are simply amazing. It does not go unnoticed or unappreciated.
Yesterday the sky and the sea merged. They came together, enveloping us in an endless loop of blue. And I had to catch my breath. No buildings, no boats, no ripple on the water. Just us and blue heaven. Even the air was sucked away.

It was an eery calm that inspired deep thought. Thoughts about what we do with all the moments of our lives. Existential thoughts. And then peace. Hot, sweaty peace. Didn’t even crave a rum cocktail ;)
It was 36C in our saloon and our tiny cabin fans spewed out hot still air that landed on us and blanketed us with sweat.
We had just circled Sandy Cay in the dinghy – our home island for the last few days. 

We hopped in the 35C water to cool off. LOL. And then we had visitors. Wild sting rays who swoop gracefully between our slippery bodies, hoping for an offering. 



It’s been 6 months – this year alone – in the Bahamas, and I still cannot be calm when they come around. By now I should be petting them or at least taking them for granted. But no – if you want to see fast movement, watch me as two 6 foot wide stingrays make a beeline through the still water at me. Holli lounging in the deep water becomes giant splash-kick-splash and voila! Holli safely up in the dinghy.
These are the challenges I face. For now.
Hard to fathom that in 2 days my challenges will include traffic and homeland security bureaucracy and too many food choices!
Right now we are on an ‘inventory reduction diet’. The freezer is empty and there hasn’t been a vegetable onboard for 2 weeks. We had stopped in the island/town of Grand Cay (population somewhere between 200 and 300), in hopes of finding a cabbage or a tomato to sustain us through our last week. But no. It was a couple cans of soggy-sodium laden pseudo-veggies. The trade offs of life in paradise. Scurvy. Call us pirates.
So after a supper of ramen and canned mush we looked out at the utter stillness. And as the sun set, somewhere beyond all the calm, a pink sky developed. Took the place of the blue, and it reflected on the water and once again we were enveloped in something so natural yet so ‘otherworldly’. 

How can we leave this all behind and surround ourselves with honking car horns and pollution and shopping malls and fast food joints with their garish coloured road signs, screaming adverts at us constantly?
It’s a sailor’s dilemma. We need the things from shore. We need towns and stores. But out here, there is another world all together. A world everyone should experience.
Forget the mosquitos, no-see-ums, rolling anchorages, lightning squalls, dumb founding heat, cramped quarters, moldy cabins, culinary sparseness… forget all that because tonight, our little mattresses and pillows dragged up front, as we lie out under the stars and slowly drift off to sleep with meteor showers above us, nothing else exists.



Sunday, June 19, 2016

TWISTER! What's next? Tsunami or maybe an earthquake?


I’ve never wished more for monstrous 350HP engines and a sleek fast speedboat in my life. I actually looked down at my leathery bare feet, dangling from the (too tall) helm seat, wishing they were red slipper-clad, and that my name was Dorothy, and that there was truly a Kansas I could wish to disappear to at that instant.
Minutes before, we had been heading out of Nassau’s hectic harbor, Shiloh chugging along slowly with her 40HP engines purring perfectly, as the ‘fast toy’ electric blue and Florida orange speed boats zoomed in and out by us, literally leaving us rolling in their wake.
We were sighing that sigh you sigh when you leave a city for the country on a weekend after a busy week. Shaking off the lists of things to do, repairs, Government agencies who e-mail you requiring payments of $15 be made by money order and requiring letters to be faxed. Faxed?! What era are we living in?!
But I digress. We spent the week getting our errands done between massive storms that rolled in each afternoon, soaking our groceries and propane tanks as we headed back to the boat in the dinghy. Storms that blew over 45kts and obliterated the towering Atlantis resort behind a white wall of water. Storms where the thunder rolled continuously like the sound of fighter jets in the sky with a constant light show of our favourite menacing bolts…


But now, on a Saturday morning, leaving through a light sun shower, we head toward Rose Island – a little oasis only 5 miles outside Nassau. A place of beaches and clean turquoise water, swaying palms. Sigh…
But as we round the edge of New Providence, about halfway between our city anchorage and the relative safety of our beachy spot, our boat buddy calls on the VHF radio. “Shiloh, Shiloh, AlleyCat.”
“Alley Cat go ahead!” we answer, grinning at our escape from town.
“Look right guys.”
And we did. And I blinked. The sky, divided in two – the sunny expanse to our left and above us, pushed by the bully - the ominous end-of-world billowing charcoal sky to the right, complete with two perfectly formed water spouts, spinning down onto the ocean surface.

Wow! We thought at first. As if it was on TV and a great spectacle to therefore take time to watch. We took photos. We marveled. And then we realised. It was heading toward us. Fast.
I sped up. LOL. Shiloh went from 4.5kt to 5.3kt (as in slower than your average walking speed). We were NOT going to outrun a raging ocean tornado that was kicking up water around it to what looked like a hundred feet in the air.

Our little lightning gadget – bought on Amazon.com after our FIRST big strike – was beeping and beeping, like a tiny bird sent as a messenger of doom. “Beep beep! Beep beep! Beep beep!” the display warning that strikes were detected a mile away. A mile away!
AlleyCat had his radar on and assured me over and over that the storm was moving away – south and west. We were heading north. Like a snail with a lion in hot pursuit. 

Every time I looked back the spout was bigger, wider, the water below visibly churned up. I knew if we were in it’s direct path we would be no longer. We would be lifted, shaken, and tossed across this expanse of water in many pieces like a cheap child’s toy.
Nothing like blood-curdling fear to get your adrenaline pumping.
We sped up again, Shiloh’s little motors growling and panting and moving us a little faster. In the distance a sun drenched little sand spit of an island beckoning us. 

And then as if by wishing alone, the storm retreated. The water spouts spinning sideways, getting further and further away like the kites strings of demons… the storm moved away. South and west.
Half hour later, boats anchored in a mild swell, we sat waist deep in the luke warm water at the edge of an idyllic beach, squinting at the sun and marveling at our adventure.
The thing about this life, this cruising thing, is that life can come all at once in a day.
An hour after our swim we were barreling toward Rose Island to avoid the huge swells that had built up out of nowhere, knocking us from side to side while another storm threatened in the distance.
The first anchorage we tried was worse. We then headed around the south of the island toward the storm and through a choppy bouncy inlet between rocks where the waves splashed angrily up through our trampoline onto the front windows.
We crawled along the coast in the swell trying to imagine how horrible the prospect was, of dropping anchor in this washing machine but it was getting late and not much time to get all the way back into Nassau Harbour. So we’d have to make the best of it.
We tucked up into the furthest end of the island where there was a bit of protection and made the best of it.
An hour later – no joke – the wind and waves were flat, calm docile. We sat waist deep in the luke warm water, beers in hand, and marveled at our adventure.
Then we ate supper, watched TV and were about to retire to bed – as you do – when a huge wind picked up about 11pm and the full moon sky disappeared behind a thick black clouded ceiling.
By 2am no one had slept and the wind blew like a horror film, whining and howling and bringing spurts of rain. Close the hatches. Listen. Hope it won’t pick up and drag our anchor in the pitch black of night.
But alas, the worst of that one missed us. Or took pity on us and allowed us some rest. And this morning, despite the daylight and the heat, captain JW sleeps. We take our moments when they come to us. Cruising is supposedly a lifestyle of freedom. And it is. Freedom from many things. But we are slave to the weather. We respect and fear the moods of mother nature. On her time we relax, on her time we are vigilant.
Today the wind is light, the water calm. We can relax. For now…

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Days like these...


If there is no breeze, not a breath of wind on a sun-baked Exuma day, is there any air at all?
The wall gadget that survived our lightning strike tells me it’s 35 celcius. The digital man is smiling, stiffly standing in sunglasses, a t-shirt and shorts. He thinks it’s safe to assume it’s gonna be a hot one out there. But I know this already. Sweat trickles down my back. My front. Well all around really. And then I just step outside into this world. The stillness and the beauty overcome me.

Is it not all a turquoise mirage created by a fabulous artist with perfectionist tendencies? The innumerable blues along the water, the slightly too imaginative cloud formations. It all points to a world in a frame, not to be disturbed by the reckless movements of the human animal.
Indeed, on days like these, with no one else to share the beauty, to verify its existence or ours within it, I need to pinch myself.
Yes, our boat is still crippled after the lightning strike of lottery winning odds. We are well on our way back to fix it all up. The journey toward Nassau first to hopefully replace the main electronics, and then either straight back to the US or slowly, to replace the rest.
But thoughts like this have no place here. Insurance coverage? Groceries? Document printing, scanning and e-mailing? What? Does not compute.
Paddle boarding along with an outgoing tide, through the glorious silence of the mangroves – yes! Swimming through the mouth of the river with the rushing tide out into the ocean – yes again. Baby lemon sharks come to see us as well, no problem. 

This is Shroud Cay, northern Exumas. We’ve been here before. So has every expat from Nassau on a Saturday afternoon, appearing in droves as they do, in a whir of manmade noise and engine power. Beers at the ready, picnic baskets, children shrieking. But never mind. We need someone to pinch us. This place really is. We can sneak away to random secret beaches by dinghy, our footsteps breaking the crust on pristine white sand. 


And at night when the sun has burned out, a fiery orange at the horizon, and completed it’s nightly performance of pinks and purples, we can see the haze of light from Nassau. 30 miles away, 30 million lifetimes away. And gone are the power boats, back to the dirty streets and air conditioned houses, and we are here alone.


The season is winding down. The cruisers are heading north, back to Florida, to the Carolinas, some all the way to Canada for the summer. Leaving a paradise that we cling to for a few last days. Responsibilities, practicalities loom over there where the haze of light beckons. Here only heat, and colour, and showering with sharks.
A few weeks ago, in the aftermath of our strike I was talking to a fellow cruiser in George Town about it – he raised his eyebrows at our luck and asked me “Have you ever thought of buying an RV?” with a smirk. Got to admit, people might think we’d be safer.
But safety doesn’t get you here. It doesn’t take you to places like these:
View from one of our hikes

The bubbly pool - north end of Compass Cay

Exploring with the dinghy around the south of Warderick Wells

View of our boats from Hog Island

An impending storm

The ocean mouth from north end of Hawksbill Cay

Hello from Hawksbill!
 And so it's all got me thinking. Pondering. Appreciating the choices, all the choices, that have brought us to where we are today. Lightning strikes and all. Though this is a corny, common cliche saying, it just fits so well:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.


Sunday, May 8, 2016

Strike 2 - A 1 in 490,000,000,000 chance... what luck?!


I’m standing in the middle of the boat. The skies are weeping all around. I see only water. I’m alone. 

Minutes ago, mayhem. After two weeks of sunshine and rum and laughter, our guests were off to shore to catch a plane. In a squall. A storm that filled the dinghy to bathtub capacity over and over, that had to be bailed out over and over, before we could load their luggage, clad in black garbage bags. A storm that had them heading to shore in swimsuits and rain coats.
The wind whipped up, howled at us and threatened to drag the boat. We put on the instruments and watched the wind speed, huddled in the saloon, waiting for a lull in the incessant rain.
And then it hit. There was an earth shattering crack beside the boat as a rogue lightning bolt was unleashed from above on the bay. We literally jumped, screamed and exchanged some wide eyed stares. And the thunder rolled along, and all that was left was the rain.

And we still had to get the guests to shore. So we hugged abruptly and they climbed out into the wet, whipping waters with JW.
And all the anger of the skies was gone. In it’s place, devastation, along with that sickly smell of burnt electronics. Shiloh was hit by lightning again. Like the rain soaking through my t-shirt, it began to sink in.
9 months ago, almost to the day, we climbed aboard after an even more vicious storm, to find that smell and all our systems dead. Chart plotter, wind instruments, depth sounder, autopilot, battery charger/inverter, TV, VHF radio, FM radio, fridge, freezer, lights, fans… everything that makes the boat liveable and sail-able!
And when JW returned this time, we winced as we checked each system. Wind instruments, depth sounder, autopilot, battery charger/inverter, VHF radio, FM radio, fridge, freezer, solar panel regulator, lights… all dead. 
So much of the same! But last year’s strike found us in the land of plenty. 100 miles of riding blind, without autopilot to a well equipped boat yard. In a country where there are marine surveyors and replacement equipment and expertise to install it all.
So different this time. We are well over 500 miles from the boatyards of Florida, and 170 miles from the only surveyors in the Bahamas – in Nassau.
And so we face the rotting meat in the freezer and the prospect of weeks with canned food, no entertainment and blind sailing – not knowing the wind speed or angle, or what depth we find ourselves in. And the worst part is the missing autopilot. The concentration and tediousness of holding the wheel for 6 to 8 hours a day.
And then, enter friends. Real friends. Friends I could not hope to ask for in this lifetime. Who refuse to let you suffer.
We moved aboard Shiloh 4 years ago. Since then, we’ve met some of the most remarkable people this world has to offer. People who are independent but socially adept. People who can fend for themselves but will do anything for each other in a pinch.
We have been buddy boating with a catamaran called Alley Cat for nearly three years. We met and clicked and compromised effortlessly. We get along so well. We sail together, explore together, socialize, commiserate, laugh, plan, unplan, replan and of course drink rum.
On a day like this I am humbled. Humbled to the core at how deep their friendship goes. Alan in his dinghy, wearing swimming goggles, appearing at the edge of the boat in the heart of the storm to help take our guests ashore.
And then the encouragement later as we sat pouting, devastated at our predicament. A smile and a genuine promise to help. And help doesn’t cover it. It’s a weak word to describe what true friendship is.
Hours, scrounging in their bilges for spares and days crouched in our narrow passages, fixing, trying, making a plan. All for a mere cup of tea and a heartfelt thank you.
To know you are not alone, to feel a united front in a storm, to be far from the support systems of the western world with true friends in tow, is exhilarating.
When I told my dad what happened, he said “If you didn’t have bad luck you’d have no luck at all.”
But  here's the thing about luck...you don't know if it's good or bad until you have some perspective.
I think he’s wrong. I know we are lucky; so lucky to have found true friends, a privilege many never experience.  

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Glorious silence, neon toys and canned food - The Exuma reality


I’m squinting at the tiny mangrove roots, marveling that they push up through the mushy white sand. Sun bakes my dry corn-husk hair and exposed limbs. The tide is rapidly flowing out through rivers to the sea, leaving our dinghy exposed on the ever growing beach. We are like castaways. Salt caked and leather brown. Our small bottle of water is empty. 
JW and I sit in silence in the sand on this uninhabited island in the Exumas. Tiny resilient seeds and crispy dry leaves whisper as they tumble along the sand, at home in this harsh environment. The only other sounds are far off airplanes and distant speed boats. They try to encroach, to remind us that this reality is small and confined. But it’s ours. And it is wild and it’s free.
It could be a Saturday or a Tuesday. Shiloh is anchored out in the unprotected bay, a huge ocean swell slapping her from side to side. We’ve escaped to the shore for some peace from the incessant rolling. 
We’ve been in the Exumas for 6 weeks. We left the last town two weeks ago. The last ‘proper’ grocery store about 4 weeks ago. We’ve run out of beers and cokes and snacks. Same with eggs and bread. Haven’t seen a fresh vegetable in a while. We are in the land of the scarce.
The Bahamas Telecom network forgot about the northern Exumas as well. But we’ve managed to devise a makeshift system for getting an Internet signal once every few days. Our iphone is double wrapped in ziplock bags, then tied to a keychain float and hoisted up the mast. If we are lucky it finds weak reception and we scramble to answer emails, check in on facebook. Say hello to the real world. And then we sink back into the salty, sun soaked world of islands we love so much.
This is the land of shifting sand that creates works of art daily. Swirls of electric turquoise, emerald green, soft teal, creamy beige. And if you can hike to any vantage point above, the rewards are awe and amazement and a humbling so profound. It floors me daily. This is natural beauty unmatched. White tropic birds with their long ribbon tails swirl above, turning blue over the water with the reflection of the sea, and back to white over land. 



Each island offers something unique – hikes to ancient ruins, bubbling pools to play in between the ocean and rocks.
Earlier today we took kayaks and the SUP and paddled a dense and still mangrove river out to the ocean on an outgoing tide.  

Some days the silence is broken – pierced by the wild whirling jet skis of the mega yacht crowd. From any shoreline you might see, anchored out in the deeper waters, a colossal white or silver multi-million dollar, crew-run floating funhouse for the rich. In this place where nature is king and money is useless, it is a jarring sight. And the huge tenders with their massive outboard engines cut through the waters with disregard, shuttling the privileged owners and guests to-and-fro. Some take over a beach with elaborate umbrella systems, blankets, baskets, neon pink and green beach toys that bob around at the water’s edge, claiming their territory. 

Today it is a convoy of power boats, here to break the silence. Down from Nassau for the weekend; kids, beers, bright toys. The breathtaking beach at the end of the mangrove river is overtaken by bikinis and bellies and exuberant chatter. The decibel level is too high for us. We haven’t been in a crowd forever it seems.
They are friendly enough, one guy in a Blue Jays baseball cap sipping a Labatt Blue he’s brought all the way from Canada. “It’s snowing back home!” he tells me, as his little pink two year old, clad in full body sun-shade armour and a wide brimmed hat that covers his whole face, plays happily in the sand. I can barely hear him. My mind does not compute. Snow? Holiday makers with Canadian beer? It seems absurd. I thought we were castaways in our own little world. I think I wished it so.
But this world, free and wild as it is, must be shared. It must come to an end even for us. One day soon our canned goods will run out too. We will need to make a bank transfer or talk on a phone. My backpack/purse will have to be transformed from a sandy vessel for water, sea shells and sun block, to wallets and cell phones. The real world will call to us and we will have to answer.
But for now intense sun. Salt. Sand. Silence.