Tuesday, June 30, 2015

On the days we must be mad...

... (because what would a blog look like all full of pristine beaches, turquoise seas and rum punches?!)
 2 am as we lay panting in our tiny mosquito occupied chow-zone of a cabin in the stifling heat, not a breath of wind, sweat trickling down our necks and pooling on the dampened pillows beneath us, the random slapping of limbs breaks the relative silence of the dull hum of a useless fan. I thought ‘this couldn’t get worse’. (Note to self – never say those words, even in your head).
After weeks of prepping for our friend’s visitors in perfect Bahamian weather, they have arrived. And since then the whole climate’s gone for a ‘sh*t’.
They brought booze!

The visitors on arrival day

2:30 am the distant rumbles of thunder have caught up with us two lonely little catamarans in Cherokee Point, the vulnerable bay, exposed to all the oncoming fun and games. The sky lights up to the brightness of day in shocking zaps and we are up.
It’s like a colossal game of electrified ten pin bowling right over our heads and everywhere around us. The lesser gods are on a bender and they are at the lanes, drunken and disorderly. The ball rumbles along above us, barreling through the great black clouds and then the crescendo – a teeth clenching, boat-shattering smash as the thunderous ball hits the pins. Over and over again, as I wince and squeal. JW has turned off the main power to the boat, knowing we are at the mercy of these lesser gods as to whether we’ll take a direct hit and potentially lose all the electronics on board. 

They are obviously in the mood to have some fun with us. They’ve stirred up the ocean as well, so the boat spins and bobs madly in this rain drenched mayhem.
I retreat inside, brushing aside the mosquitos who are just as frightened I’m sure. They’ve taken such a back seat as the bad guys, they might as well retreat completely and come back with their blood sucking intentions another day.
And here I sit – making sure not to hold on to anything metallic just in case – and I focus on JW’s silhouette in the door, lit up like a photo negative in the lightning show. I know he is worried, and that the soul crushing feeling of being helpless in a situation furrows his brow.  I squeeze my eyes closed after each bolt snaps down from the clouds and see the jagged designs behind my eyelids over and over.
The truth is that we are in the vicinity of some serious danger. Boats are lightning attraction devices with their tall masts, and we’ve come to a bay where there is nothing around us but surface rocks, beach sand and a tiny settlement of one story homes nearby. So we are IT if it comes down to the wire. Worst case scenario the lightning passes through the boat, leaving a gaping hole below the water line and we sink. Total loss.
I think of the storms we’ve slept through on land, the light and noise a mere inconvenience with the secure feeling of insulated and sturdy walls protecting us. Out here it’s all raw and real. We have no mosquito nets, we have no lightning protection. It’s yang to the ying of the paradise we live in. It’s the other side of the coin. It’s real and it’s 5am and we’ve been up for hours.
As I rub my red sore eyes I realise this lifestyle has no middle ground. There is no ‘mildly amusing’ or ‘slightly annoying’ in our vocabulary. It’s all ‘OMG!’ or ‘WTF!’ Extreme beauty, extreme fun, extreme danger. Big joy, big problems.
On the boat next to us, a family has flown thousands of miles to see what we see. Experience what we call normal life. This is their vacation. They swat at mosquitos, wince at the storms and hopefully will experience some of the big joys over the next few days.
As the storm passes, the game has moved on and left us with some big winds and big seas. That means ‘anchor watch’ (to keep an eye that we don’t drag into the rocks behind us), so no sleeping yet. Until the sun rises and the benign morning negates the heightened fears of the night and promises a new day of extreme beauty and yet another adventure. Zzzzzzzz


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Between a rock and a sleepless place

It’s 2 am and one moment I am deeply sleeping, my body slightly rolling with the waves. The next moment I am at the helm, starting engines, blinking wildly to get the eyes to focus. The harsh rocky coastline of Fowl Cay was beautiful in the day when we anchored into the prevailing east winds, and tucked ourselves nicely up in her lee. 

At 2 am when the wind has swung against all predictions to the west, and the frantic sound of waves slamming against sharp defiant rock is now just a few feet from the back of the boat – not so beautiful. We have to move. Now.
As JW balances up front, his headlamp blinding me as he moves around lifting the anchor, I reflect on the bizarre reality we live in.
There are no 6 am alarm bells or morning traffic for us. A Sunday is the same as a Monday. There is a lot of laughter and freedom and of course rum punch. But there are nights like this. Sleep is not sacred on a boat. It’s the shut-eye you catch when the seas allow. In the very early days of my sailing career I would meet these interruptions to my nights with exasperation and fear. Being woken to an impending disaster that requires immediate action, is something you have to develop a taste for. Tonight I realise that I have. It’s exactly what has happened. Expect the unexpected. Deal with it as it comes.
I gun the engines into forward and leave the crashing slamming disaster looming all behind us. We are blind navigating and choose a spot just far enough away from the island and before the ocean floor dips further out. Apart from our buddy boat Alley Cat, we’re alone out here. It’s another one of those strange realities. We spend much time socializing, either on boats or partially submerged, treading water by countless beaches, a beer in hand. But only one sail away, we can be totally alone. And it’s an amazing feeling. Like camping deep in the woods. You hear all nature’s sounds. You see things that are invisible in a city. 

Tonight, the charcoal sky has been torn in one small spot and the moon peeks through. It’s only half exposed but it’s enough to make out our surroundings.  We drop the anchor, tug back the engines in reverse and wait for it to grip. We are set.
It’s all over and the excitement has died down but sleep is now a distant memory. In the morning we’ll be diving with the sharks who prowl the reefs just around the corner if all goes well.
For now I ponder the world we discovered earlier in the evening. Sundowners on the tiny beach, after the boat loads of happy rowdy tourists have made their way back to marinas and resorts and we had Fowl Cay to ourselves. The terrain is other worldly. Sharp towers of spiky rock poke out from the soft sand, making walking treacherous. We made our way to the little shelter built as a vista – or a bus stop where no bus will ever arrive?!
Tiny hermit crabs, who like us, take their little homes with them as they go, made their way along the sand. To destinations unknown, they made patterns between the huge science fiction style rocky mountains. I was fascinated. Filled with wonder. As if I’d shrunk and seen their world from their height. A new adventure. Another of natures amazing mysteries. I close my eyes now and smile. And sleep comes. 
The other-wordly landscape of Fowl Cay

Sundowners in the Fowl Cay shelter