Saturday, February 22, 2014


Friends and readers back home: You may have had to shovel a lot of snow this winter. But look at the "bright" side--running water, hot shower, washer/dryer at your fingertips, bright electric lights, and bright green lettuce down the street at Kroger or Safeway. And so cheap! Do not take these for granted.

Yes, I was once a backpacker and still primarily travel on a budget. Most of this trip, we have anchored offshore for free.For a couple of days, however, I am changing my tune. We are sitting at a bar at a private island resort and marina--Highbourne Cay--eating blackened fish and salad with organic lettuce, pecans, and orange slices, on a restaurant patio, watching the US-Finland bronze metal hockey game.

I am relishing the delicious fresh greens; the first ones in weeks. An hour ago I borrowed a marina bike to ride to the ocean beach, just like I used to do back on the Intracoastal Waterway.
Then I luxuriated in a hot shower and washed my hair; first one in a long, long time. I had gotten used to being soaked with sweat and itching from crusty salt and insect bites, retiring into a bunk full of sand. (And sheets dotted with bloodstains from all our injuries.)

Ah, such decadence.

Our boat is dwarfed by the other boats, many of which come over from Miami or Nassau for holiday weekends.

This back-to-civilization experience will cost us a cool couple of hundred for each night--about 4 times a normal marina rate. Everything is beautifully constructed and maintained.

Supplies shipped in by boat or small plane. Water and electricity are metered. We still have to sleep on our boat without window screens or air conditioning; a cottage here costs $850 per night. The payoffs: My body and spirit are refreshed. For a few hours, I can put aside my fear of being out on the sea in a boat with "issues."

Pope was motivated stop at this outrageously priced resort, the only marina before we cross the ocean again, to recharge the batteries fully on electricity. We did the same for two nights at Staniel Cay. We are having trouble getting the engine started, and the batteries charged, possibly because of confused wiring or a loose connection. We are headed for Eleuthera, an island in the northern Bahamas that: 1) offers a route home via the Abacos that minimizes ocean crossings, and 2) has marine experts who can puzzle through the electrical system. We will turn on the engine tomorrow morning and not turn if off until we arrive.

There is more to be grateful for. We met sailors here on Highbourne Cay who had a much worse experience than us with running aground: 40 mph winds (our wind was only 20 mph), anchor chain wrapped around the keel AND prop (our rope was wrapped around the keel), and anchor buried so deep in mud that no leverage could pull it up (Pope got ours up from the dinghy). They were rescued by a towing service from Freeport, contacted by satellite phone--the last call they made before their phone died. They had a "buddy boat" with them. We don't have either luxury; we are alone and have only a low-powered VHF radio.

I am grateful that our grounding experience was not worse than it was.

We have met many cruisers who upgraded this or that on their boat because of previous experiences in the Exumas--hard-bottom dinghy with high-horsepower outboard to plow through current; backup wind AND solar to recharge batteries; multiple jugs on deck of fuel and water; high-powered radio antenna. The longer we stay, and the more stories I hear, the more I realize that to stay safe in a remote area without services and with shallow sandbars, strong currents and winds--let alone to have fun--takes much more preparation and equipment than we envisioned.

And with that understatement I'll again express my gratitude for life back home and vow never to take it for granted.

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