We anchored at Hoffman cay in a bay that seemed made for us. Other then one catamaran on the other side, that would leave early the next day, it was just us. The area was completely desolate. There were raw, uninhabited islands on every side.
The boys jumped in and speared us a huge lobster. We all felt strongly guilty as we watched it die. I know that this, hunting and gathering, is the only sustainable way to eat and is the best way for the world that I can feed my family but it will never be easy.
I cooked pasta and added the lobster after Adam grilled it. It was wonderful and we were all very grateful for the protein.
After dinner we piled pillows and blankets in the cockpit. I laid on Adam and Bill laid on the seat across from us. We watched the stars under the blankets. The Milky Way ran brightly across the sky. I had never seen it so prominently. Bill pulled out his star app and we pointed out the planets and different constellations and stars we had never seen before. We talked about existential things. The boys, never ceasing to amazing me with their intelligence, blew my mind as they talked about the immense universe. We yawned and yawned but stayed and stayed.
When we woke up we took the dinghy to the other side of the island to find the blue hole. A place some Canadians had told us we couldn’t miss. When we got there we all had a good laugh. It was more like a dirty brown hole. But it was still a beautiful place. Created by a meteorite the “Blue Hole” is 600 feet wide and almost perfectly round. It is roughly 40 feet deep and completely, terrifyingly dark after swimming in such clear water. There was a 25 foot cliff where we came from the woods upon it. Adam jumped off easily. Falling gracefully into the dark water. Determined to show what a badass I am, I ran up top to jump off too. The cliff overhung where they were so they couldn’t see me. Adam asked for a three count so he could take a picture at the moment I came into view. I counted to three and listened as the shutter on the camera clicked and clicked and clicked. After about 10 second we all started laughing.
“Hello?” he said.
“Its terrifying!” I yelled.
“It’s really not,” he yelled back.
I counted again. Again I didn’t go. I had jumped off of things much higher then this, but I was frozen. Bill came up and stood around with me for about a minute looking down. Then he took two steps yelled, “FFUUUUCCCKKK!” as he jumped.
I immediately yelled, “FFFFUUUUCCKKK!!” as I jumped in after him.
“Oh the fuck really helps,” I said as I came up. We laughed and run up like kids to jump again. As always, Adam was the first to have the guts to snorkel around the hole. It was so dark and so deep. We followed him. It was very uninspiring. Lots of oysters. Lots of dirt and algae. Adam found what we thought might be the top of the meteor or at least a place in the middle that was raised as though a giant ball was lodged in the hole.
When we got back to the anchorage we split off and snorkeled around alone. When I came back to the Talisman I rubbed her bloated, smooth belly for a long time. Loving her more then I ever have before.
Adam speared a grouper. Which ended up being the best fish I have ever tasted. He fried it in bread crumbs and it melted in our mouths.
As Adam prepared the grouper Bill swam around the harbor by himself and I wrote a little. I was on the couch with my computer when I heard Bill smash into the back of the boat as if he had been thrown into it. Adam and I looked at each other and laughed. I put my computer down and said, “what’s chasing Bill?”
“SHARK!” we heard him yell around his snorkel. I could hear how hard he was breathing from inside the boat. He had been swimming about 40 feet out when he turned around to a five foot reef shark between him and the boat. He pointed the spear at it and, shaking (I imagine) waited for it to go far enough away for him to swim, fast his little fins would take him, to the swim ladder. I don’t know if a six foot tall man has ever mounted a boat in flippers faster then he did that day. Then I made this questionable statement, “Babe!! get in there!”
I am lucky, the first time I swam with sharks I was with people who were used to swimming with sharks. They showed no fear so I had no fear. Maybe to a fault when I chased a huge bull shark and was told that’s probably going a little far. Recently I watched the movie Sharkwater and now I have even less fear. Sharks don’t attack humans. They just don’t. You are more likely to be killed by your refrigerator then by a shark. Even if you swim everyday. Yes it has happened. But it is so very rare. Humans are not food for sharks and sharks, being smarted then humans, know this.
I knew that Adam has always wanted to see a real good sized shark while snorkeling so I thought he’d jump right in. He didn’t. He hung off the swim ladder until the sharks (there were two) came into view and he was happy with that. I did the same as I had just gotten dry. They were beautiful. Sleek and gray and powerful. We had tossed the rest of the grouper in, the parts we could not use, and they had smelled it. They stuck around for hours swimming gracefully around our boat.
We sailed south. We anchored for the night next to Little Whale Cay, a tiny, adorable private island. I was itching to get onto land but the boys wouldn’t come with me. They were scared we would get in trouble. I had never known my husband to be scared of such things before and was shocked he wouldn’t come. I went alone. I rowed the 200 yards to get some exercise. When I got to land I pulled the dinghy up in a little cove and started walking around. As I was taking pictures of a couple fat, white geese I heard, “Um, hello?!” from inside one building.
“Oh hello,” I said in my friendliest voice.
“Hi,” said the man as a women came around the house behind him.
“Beautiful place you’ve got here,” I said.
He chuckled. “Are you aware this is a private island?”
“Oh!” I said. “Shoot, I was hoping to find a place to get some food,” I said truthfully.
“Well, we don’t have anything like that. It’s just us and a couple of other people who work the island for the owners.” He said. “I’m charlie.”
“I’m Elizabeth,” said the gorgeous, make-upless brunette with him.
“I’m Josie,” I said politely. “I’m sorry.” I meant it. Their faces were friendly.
“Well, let us give you a tour,” She said taking my arm kindly.
We talked of living off the grid. We talked about how hard it is to go back to society and the fast pace of America, where they were also from, after being in such a slow lovely place for so long. They told me about the owners. They showed me the school the previous owner had built, both for his own kids and for the kids of the Bahamians that worked the land. When the kids grew up the owner sent all the kids, including the Bahamian ones, to college. They showed me the flamingos and the peacocks, whom they aren’t the most fond of because they poop everywhere. They took me to the top of the little island so I could get cool pictures of my boat from there. They waited patiently everywhere we went while I took as many pictures as I liked. They pointed out other things I could take pictures of. We talked and talked as we walked around. They were lovely, unforgettable people. The best kind of people. I was grateful that I came. I was grateful they had caught me. They sent me off with six cold beers and kudos for my life choices.
“Who wants a cold beeeeer.” I yelled as I came up to the boat. They both came out to tie me off, asking questions about the elusive little island.
The next day it was very windy. The waves were huge. The boat rode high out of the water and crashed back down, the bow submerging, only to fly back out of the water and repeat the cycle. As we sailed away from the little island we noticed the anchor was flopping around. It would have been tied fine had the waves not been so out of control. Someone had to tie it down better. I crab walked across the deck. Waiting every 3 seconds and holding on tight as the boat tried to shoot me to the sky or sweep me away into the waves. It took a while but I finally got to the bow. I pressed my back hard against one stanchion and my feet against the other. The boat dipped down and I was in the water. I didn’t get thrown out to sea. As the boat lifted high out of the water I was airborn. I pressed harder and risked letting go with my hands and grabbed the anchor. I jammed it tight into the bow roller. I hung on with one hand on the anchor and one hand on the lifeline as I crashed back down into the water. It was so powerful. My heart beat hard in the chest. My breath came out fast. But it wasn’t panic. I was hyper-focused. As I was lifted again I grabbed another line, not trusting myself to keep the anchor if I undid the loose line it had on it. I ran the new line through the end of the anchor and quickly, faster then I knew I was capable of, cleated it off tight against the ship and I was submerged again. I held tight to the life line next to me. I made my way, very slowly, back to the cockpit. I had loved every god damned second of that. It was like nothing I had ever experienced. I had known I was safe. Even though the boat was pitching so hard and so high I knew what moves it would make and after so long on the boat I could compensated for them. It was dynamic and exhilarating. From that moment on, and I assume forever, the bow had become my favorite place to ride out bad weather. I couldn’t wait to get back out there so as we came into port in Nassau I rode the bow for over an hour. It was raw and real and exciting and meditative. It stuck me so completely in the moment that nothing else existed but me, my sturdy tank of a boat and the angry sea. My muscles clenched and held me from falling. This time I stood. I held on, first with two hands, and as I got more used to the motion, with one hand and let the sea toss me up and down and back and forth. It threw me in the air until my feet were lifted off the deck and then caught me gracefully at the bottom of every wave. It will forever be one of the best, most real hours of my life.