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…