We had always intended to spend the spring in the Bahamas and really wanted to explore the Northern Abacos which we had skipped on our way down. After the death defying experience in Georgetown however, we were very cautious with the weather and spent many days dodging for cover in what was one of the worst springs in local memory. While the Bahamas were cooler than normal, after the heat of Central America no one minded, although we were not in any hurry to swim in the frigid 75 degree water.
Our spring was a mixture of great visits by old friends and wonderful new relationships made along the way. We puttered around the Exumas for several months until Uncle Hugh came and then there was no puttering allowed! 50 mile days or nothing. We ended up in the Abacos and were pleasantly surprised with these well kept and charming islands. We could purchase all sorts of delicacies not found elsewhere in the Caribbean like fresh milk, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and fresh baked goods, not to mention the eight year old Bacardi rum which quickly became known to everyone as “Ocho”.
The Abacos were settled largely by the Loyalists, much like the area around Kingston, and the results of their industry provide a stark contrast to the Exumas. Much like Quebec where they still speak a dialect similar to ‘Old French’, the islanders had a Boston twang even though some of them were sixth or seventh generation Bahamians. On Man-of-War Cay there is a modern boat building industry still run by the Albury family after many generations, testament to the resilience and work ethic of the locals.
While touring Great Guana by speedy golf cart, we met Sherry Murphy and her friend Bill at the side of the road. They are Americans who have a vacation home on the island and she invited us to visit her house (when she wasn’t there) perched high on a hill with a million dollar view, so I left a note inviting her for drinks the next day. When she called I offered a little Rafiki horsepower around the house and the poor woman must have thought we were travelling AMWAY salesmen or religious fenatics because we arrived the following day and started painting the porch, cleaning the roof and sanding the deck with no discussion about money or wages. In truth we were grateful for the chance to get off the boat, get our hands dirty, and meet some locals but it must have seemed strange to them. To make a long story short over the next three weeks we developed a fast friendship with a very cool couple and shared dinners, drinks and lots of laughs.
We also reconnected with Anomaly off Great Guana and the arrival of Kathleen and Wesley certainly animated your world, while we caught up with Matt and Heather.
We all moved North together and finally at Crab Cay, we continued on to Florida and the Lynch family returned back to the Abacos for a few more weeks. Matt dropped the idea that when they returned to Florida, that they would leave the boat and head off to Europe! How crazy was that? Who spends a year on a boat and then skips off to Europe on a whim? … more on that later.
Your mother and I had decided that we wanted to be back in Florida by April so that we could prep, market and sell the boat and be in Ottawa by July. Through the spring we struggled with the pull to get home, and the melancholy of knowing that our trip was coming to an end. Sitting under the stars in Whale Cay I became acutely conscious that our idyllic little life was about to accelerate ten fold.
The last crossing was from the Bahamas bank to Florida and we had a clean forecast of 12-14kts from the south which would carry us smoothly home to Stuart…Yeah, right! When did the forecast ever hold true on this trip? We started off around 2300 with a brisk southerly and when we cleared the bank the winds and waves built until we were surfing at 11kts in 30kts of wind on our beam. Mommy came on deck around 0200 and all she could say was “really?? You’re kidding me!” The ride was fast and wet until around 0500 when the storms hit and thankfully we had enough time to get the sails down before the lightning and rain consumed us, but the winds switched into the north and we learned why they say,”don’t cross the gulfstream with any northerly component”. After the last six months our reaction was, “Whatever, bring it on…” Not surprisingly we didn’t see much other traffic during the night which was a slightly tarnished silver lining to the many clouds around us.
We sailed through the Port St. Lucie breakwater at daybreak and motored
up river and under the bridges back to Sunset Bay Marina where the adventure began 2 1/2 years ago. It seemed a bit surreal and your mother and I reflected how far we had travelled and how much we had experienced although the world around us looked like it had stood still during the intervening years.
We entered into the marina and were assigned a spot against the breakwater behind one mega-yacht and in front of another. As I approached “gazillionaire row” Kathryn was forward with a bow line ready and Alex was on the stern with another line ready. I had to do a 180 degrees turn in place to access the shore power and you two were calling my corners which are hard to see from the helm. When we were lined up I used a combination of asymmetrical thrust and a helping tide to wiggle the boat sideways towards the dock. At about fifteen feet I called for the the bowline and Kathryn threw a perfect arcing toss right into the hands of the dock master and a second later when I called for the stern line Alex also threw a perfect line which snaked through the air into the waiting hands of another
man on the dock. With the motors and lines we snugged the boat in against the dock and quickly lashed the spring lines into place and adjusted the fenders. It felt bittersweet that when we had finally got it down, it was time to go back to life ashore. Later as I walked towards the office to check in, a lady standing on the dock in front of the restaurant touched me on the arm and said she had seen us come in and it looked like something out of a Yachting magazine. Trying hard to suppress a grin, I thought… that was pretty cool.