The Burnetts are in our happy place—the Bahamas!
We shot up to Mayaguana from Anegada on a beautiful, straightforward, trouble-free three-day passage where we flew the spinnaker in 10-22 kts of true wind almost the entire time, averaging 7.1 kts and gibing once as the wind was almost directly up our stern. Arriving in Mayaguana after visiting the BVI’s is like going to college straight from junior high. Gone are the anchorages packed with 6 charterers per boat, the constant worry that the latest bump against your hull was a drunken dinghy instead of a turtle, and the deep and precisely-charted waters, refreshingly free of “Reef Surprise!” Surrounding us now in shallow, reef-bound Abraham’s Bay are the shoal-draft monohulls, off-brand cats, and well-equipped trawlers that signify that we are in serious cruiser territory.
While the proximity to the US makes one think the Bahamas represent an easy “next-step” for the carefree Floridian day-sailor, in actuality the Bahamas are an intermediate-to-advanced cruising ground. Once again we are paying attention to the tides, getting daily updates on the weather, cross-comparing two electronic charts and one paper chart, noting the temporal patterns of strong currents, and wearing our polarized “reef-spotting” sunglasses at the bow as we navigate our 5-foot draft at 3 kts through the “Visual Pilot Rules” zones. Aware of the scarcity of grocery stores in the Far Bahamas, our freezer is stocked as if we are crossing an ocean, and we have prepared for the predicted increased encounters with pelagic megafauna by reviewing the difference between the harmless nurse shark and the scarier bull shark. (This has already come in handy, by the way.)
Despite the challenges, as soon as we dropped our massive anchor in Abraham’s Bay, the entire family immediately relaxed. Mel’s “Caribbean playlist” blasted from the speakers, bathing suits replaced our salt-encrusted sailing wear, and Mel took a bunch of pictures of seagrass, as seen through 7 feet of water. Why the burst of mania? Is it the Windex-hued waters of various dilutions that you can almost palpate on the retina? Is it a return to familiar territory, as we had a fabulous time here in February last year? Maybe it’s the welcoming Bahamians, which is a different flavor of friendly than that experienced in the Lesser Antilles, where the smiles and openness had a subtle undercurrent of an (understandable) expectation of economic compensation at “we’re on vacation!” prices. The merry Bahamians we have encountered seem above all of that, despite the huge economic wounds they suffer with every blast of hurricane. This is a place where a passing driver will wave, smile, and slow down to ask if you need a ride, and we Americans have to relinquish our knee-jerk paranoia when encountering unsolicited acts of kindness from strangers. It’s a place where the local preacher will cook up a fabulous meal for you all by himself at his restaurant, because every Bahamian has at least two jobs. It’s a place where the cellular provider (BTC) store appears closed during normal business hours, but if you hang out there for a little while, eventually someone friendly will see you, let you in (because every Mayaguanan apparently has a key to the BTC office), and call the person who works there that she has customers. Subsequently, the person who shows up is a pro and she just knows that you want a “data only” SIM card you can use as a hotspot with the 15 Gig plan. 15 Gigs! Oh, we are not in Italy any more!
And so we are returning to the fabulous rhythm of life we have established when anchored near islands in which the waters are more compelling to explore than the land. For Mel, this means: awaken late (the Burnetts are all night owls; yes, we know we are freaks; get over it), work out and have a swim, eat something, homeschool the children, clean or do boat projects, swim again or snorkel somewhere, shower off the sunscreen and put on a sundress, watch the sunset with or without guests from another boat, cook dinner, watch an episode of Star Trek Voyager, and then do whatever on the computer until midnight. Yes, midnight, people. Geez. Free of 8 a.m. appointments, everyone falls into their natural cycle. And if there is a full moon out, we all grow tails and swim with the dolphins. No. Just kidding.
See? Good mood!
For those following The Aquatic Adventures of The Amazing Marvin: The Mystery of the Flor do Mar, Chapter 9 is ready. Chief Al interviews a skittish artist.