“If I run your boat aground, I’ll buy you a 30 pack.”

Tara-13

“If I run your boat aground, I’ll buy you a 30 pack,”  I said quietly but confidently. I knew I was going to run us aground. I just didn’t know exactly when and where.

“Sounds good….(pause) Left. Left! Rocks on the right,” Nick said loud and clear, but with zero hostility. Slight left turn, and we were back in the uncharted channel. Moving forward at a slow 0.8 knots.

 Location: Secret spot in the Bahamas. Not telling.

Characters: Katie, Reggie, Nick, Tara, and myself. Who is Nick, and who is Tara? Nick is a very good friend of ours whom we met and traveled with in the Bahamas last summer. Tara is Nick’s house. A stunning 31 foot Bristol born in 1982.

Setting: Pitch black. Too many stars to comprehend. Phosphorescence bouncing around Tara’s wake, like swimming lightning bugs. The FM radio is tuned to rock ‘n roll. Steady 12 knot breeze. Pleasantly warm. Sometime around 23:00.

Mood: Exhausted but equally as excited. Adrenaline comes with night time navigation over the shallow water. Loony. Slightly delirious, yet self assured. Carefree. Nothing matters. Tail end of a 20 hour crossing, and suddenly I don’t even care if we get there anymore… I could keep going.

Situation: Katie and I are on a mission to an anchorage we had visited a year ago.  A narrow deep channel, leading to a big hole, perfectly sized for one boat to swing 360 degrees. This specific anchorage is not charted. Maybe a quarter mile, we navigate the uncharted channel in the darkness. Nick is on the bow, with nothing but a dim light to read the bottom of the sea. Katie is keeping an eye on the depth sounder, and translating Nick’s instructions from the bow, since the dodger gets in the way of communication. I am at the helm, eyes fixed on the GPS, doing what I can to keep us centered in the channel that none of us can see. We are now uncertain when the channel takes its’ 90 degree right turn.

My night vision is shot from focusing on the chart plotter’s backlight. The only reason I have any kind of confidence driving someone else’s boat in this sort of situation is the trust that Nick initially has in Katie and me. It’s his boat, and he seems to have no worries. If he is worrying, he is hiding it well. He has complete confidence in Katie and me to run the show. So we are. My forward movement is completely based on listening to Katie, Nick and Tara. We find the 90 degree turn in the channel that we remembered, and find ourselves in the deep hole we are searching for.  But just before we find the right spot to drop the hook, inertia knocked us forward. I hit bottom. I owe Nick a thirty pack. Damnit.

Rewind: Why are we in the Bahamas with Nick, aboard Tara, and not Louise? Let’s just say… sometimes things just work out. Sometimes by not having a plan, the best decisions are made. Our decision to cross to the Bahamas was made on a Friday night around 20:00, as the three of us were on the way to the bar in Fort Lauderdale. We all had a rough day following a late outing the night prior, and spent hours joking about crossing to the Bahamas for the weekend. On the way to the bar, Katie humorlessly said it first , “Let’s go to the Bahamas”. I was right on board with the idea, and pulled up the weather forecast. Nick was thrilled. Decision made. We weren’t joking anymore. Why would we go spend more money at the bar when we all would rather be in the Bahamas? We turned the car around, ran back to Louise to pick up Reggie, packed a bag, and slept for 3 hours that night. Long before the sun rose we were out on the mother ocean. South-east bound. Nick had to be back in Lauderdale Tuesday morning to catch a flight to St. Martin. This decision the three of us made was the definition of Rash. Or maybe, it was the definition of freedom?

Fast forward: I don’t know what time it is. I don’t know how long I slept or if I slept at all. It’s morning. On the bow. French press. Light breeze. Crispy skin. Breakfast sandwich. Unfinished sentences. Unfinished thoughts. Love them. My sister hates them. Oh well. Here we sit, smack dab in the middle of this deep hole we somehow navigated ourselves into. I am in a tropical world surrounded by hues of blue my vocabulary cannot express. The water even more stunning than I remember. The gullies squawking, also as obnoxious as I remember, but it doesn’t matter because the scenery drowns out their conversation. I wonder what they are squawking about. I wonder if they realize how beautiful it is here. Twenty four more hours before we have to turn around. The twenty hours it took us to get here is all worth sitting right here, right now. But I don’t want to turn around. I don’t want to go home. Suddenly, I am confused as to why Katie and I are northbound after this. If we had taken Louise here instead of Tara, we would be sending Nick back to the states on a plane, and continue another Bahamian journey. But I am here now. With some of my best friends. It would take some kind of crazy vice grip contraption to take the smile off of my face.

Fast forward again, to later in the day when as adults we feel like children. The tide is low. The sand banks are above the water creating miles of land to walk. So we walk. We talk. We explore. We laugh. “What ifs” and “Would you rathers” keep us entertained. More questions are raised than answers. We walk in a line and pretend we are elephants. We take turns balancing a large water jug on our heads. Reggie digs up conch and moves them to new places. There is one thing confirmed… Katie is obsessed with birds, Nick with trees, and me with clouds. The difference being that they are actually knowledgeable in their categories, and I am just curious about mine.

By sunset a current of rum gravitates towards our bellies. Conversation gets even better. We pick apart Katie, because she is funny and we know she can handle it.  Chuckle about all of our discombobulated relationships, why we can’t maintain them, and why they have never worked. We wonder why more people can’t seem to find happiness in the simplicity of being broke, unattached, unpredictable, and nomadic. We ponder the appeal of stability, income, and safety. Amongst our obvious differences, the three of us are exactly the same.

Suddenly, buzzed Nick realizes that his flight to St. Martin is on the 30th. The 30th is not Tuesday, it is Wednesday. We have another day to run free here in the Bahamas. We don’t have to leave  before the sun rises. We thought he was playing a joke on us. He wasn’t. Soon, there was no rum left in the bottle. It was this night, we all finally slept.

The next 24 hours are spent moseying, and leisurely re-anchoring in a new location. Although right around the corner, it felt like a whole new kind of paradise. While snorkeling to shore, Katie and I confirm in our masks and snorkels that there is no where else in the world we would rather be. Nick and Reggie are rowing around in the distance. Maybe we could swim back and steal Tara, leave Nick and Reggie on this here rock. They would survive. They are smart men.

“Hey girls?” Nicks voice resonates across the surface

“What?”

“There’s some sharks over here.”…. pause…

Katie and I look at each other, too scared to put our faces back in the water. If there are sharks swimming beneath us, I don’t think I want to look.

“I’m going to come get you.” Nick casually heads our way.

Katie and I start doggy paddling the opposite direction. Our faces are nervously laughing, but our eyes are terrified. Every shadow I see I’m convinced is going to eat me. We both hop in the dinghy. Sure enough, the predators are visible in every direction.

Just before the sun says its goodbye for the day, we decide that a night time operation back to America is suitable. Nick raises the sail, hauls up the anchor, and off we go, into the darkness. Westbound. By the time the light from the sun setting disappears, the glow from city lights take it’s place, giving the helmsman/woman an easy indication for steering the right direction through this blackness. Lightning relentlessly strikes in the distance to the south. The wind is behind us. The gulf stream working in our favor. Wide awake the entire night, I try to close my eyes, but unsuccessfully. I don’t want to miss anything. I don’t want to go home. None of us do. The lightning never catches up to us. The boom whips across the cockpit a handful of times, bringing those laying down instantly upright. The FM radio switches from rock ‘n roll to country. The amount of wishes I have aren’t enough to keep up with the shooting stars. I realize that there isn’t that much I have to wish for. Nick makes coffee around 2am. The first boiling batch flies into the air simultaneously with a wave. French press down. Coffee grounds fill every corner and crack of Tara. Try, try again.

Twelve hours later, twilight welcomes us into the city of Fort Lauderdale. I finally close my eyes. I don’t want to see the city. Two full days disappear to rest after returning to Louise. Okay, now… it is time to go. There is no more schedule. There are no more plans. Only the last minute ones. We must keep it this way. A peculiar lifestyle to accept, but necessary. Katie and I have been so anxious to get to Michigan… to get home… to complete The Great Loop. Something changed. No longer do we care. We will get there when we get there. Hell, let’s go back to the Bahamas… we will finish this loop next year. The End.

Tara-6 Tara-7 Tara-8 Tara-9 Tara-10 Tara-11 Tara-12  Tara-14 Tara-15 Tara-16 Tara-17 Tara-18 Tara-19 Tara-20 Tara-21 Tara-22 Tara-23 Tara-24 Tara-25 Tara-26 Tara-27 Tara-28 Tara-29

Tara-30 Tara-31 Tara-32 Tara-33 Tara-34 Tara-35 Tara-36 Tara-37 Tara-38 Tara-39 Tara-40 Tara-41 Tara-42 Tara-43 Tara-44 Tara-45 Tara-46 Tara-47 Tara-48  Tara-50 Tara-51 Tara-52 Tara-53 Tara-54 Tara-55 Tara-56 Tara-57

Tara-58  Tara-60 Tara-61 Tara-62 Tara-63 Tara-64 Tara-65 Tara-66 Tara-67 Tara-68 Tara-69 Tara-70 Tara-71  Tara-73 Tara-74 Tara-75 Tara-76 Tara-77 Tara-78 Tara-79 Tara-80 Tara-81 Tara-82 Tara-83 Tara-84 Tara-85

Tara-86 Tara-87  Tara-89 Tara-90 Tara-91 Tara-92 Tara-93 Tara-94 Tara-95 Tara-96 Tara-97 Tara-98 Tara-99 Tara-100 Tara-101 Tara-102 Tara-103 Tara-104

 

T SHIRTS !!!

DSC_0761

NEW!!! “LOUISE” T SHIRTS, by Marushka Hand Prints.  For those of you who have suggested that we have t-shirts… we finally got around to it, and thanks to all of those who encouraged the idea!

A Smith, family owned and operated screen printing company based out of Grand Haven Michigan, got hard to work hand printing each shirt. If you contribute $40.00 to Katie and Jessie on a Boat, you will receive this superb t-shirt!!! Who doesn’t need a shirt, with two chicks on their chest, and a boat on their back? Representing the art of cruising and simplicity, combined with hard work and gratitude. If you donate at least $40.00 to helping us complete America’s Great Loop, not only will you have a shirt to change your oil in, but you will be supporting the mission of two young women, working to prove a pretty simple point. The point being… don’t let fear get in the way of moving forward with your own dreams. Don’t let yourself get stuck. And if you do get stuck, I hope it is on the ground in the new boat you just took off on.

DSC_0764 DSC_0763Contributions or no contributions, we appreciate everyone who keeps up with our story . This week, Katie and I start moving north up the East Coast. We have a 4 month trip ahead of us as we travel back to the Great Lakes. What will happen in these 4 months… I do not know. The only thing predictable in the life of Katie and Jessie is that, no matter what, things are going to go wrong. Disaster amidst the wanderlust. Ye haw. THANK YOU EVERYONE. We are so grateful for the ongoing encouragement, enthusiasm, guidance, and support.

We would get towed to America

You didn’t think that we would make it back to America without breaking down did you? beingtowed-2 Winding down our Bahamian journey, we cranked over the engine in the pitch black, early morn before the sun was up. If there is a word to describe nervous, excited, anxious and sad all at once, that is what we felt. We were ready to be home. Ready to see our families. Ready for civilization. Ready for America. And yet, I cannot say we were ready to leave the Islands behind.

An hour out of Bimini Sands Marina the wind is blowing directly out of the North. Those of you who are familiar with crossing the Gulf Stream, know that this is a huge “NO, NO.” Winds blowing out of the north, meeting the stream’s contradicting current, can create seas no one wants to experience. Both of us were tense, scared we were making the wrong decision to continue on. We were banking on the reported East wind to kick in, and push us back toward Fort Lauderdale. And yes! Later in the morning, the wind did swing around E, NE, and remained light. Too light, and there we were again… motor-sailing.

Things were going smoothly. Very smoothly. If we have learned anything on this trip, it’s that when things are going your way, be prepared for them to not. Simrad auto-pilot on, music turned up, rolling side to side, slicing through the sea, sun shining, light wind, no one in sight. It was beautiful. Our last day to be alone and free. When all of the sudden, KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK. An insane and painful racket comes screaming from the basement. Katie and I nearly had a wrestling match to pull back the throttle and shut off her engine. We didn’t know what it was, but we knew it was bad.

There we were again. Two chicks, a dog, and a broken boat… this time in the middle of the Gulf Stream. With our sails up, the light breeze, and the relentless current of the Gulf Stream pushing us North, we could barely hold our course. We did our best to hold our ground as we went through our routine engine check. After process of elimination, and checking into several possibilities, we came to the conclusion that our problem was our prop shaft. It was clear that the entire damn thing was working it’s way out. Thank god, it was still connected, and we were not sinking into 9000 feet of water. The prop shaft goes through the bottom/haul of the boat before connecting to the transmission. If you lose the shaft, that means you have a decent sized hole in your boat. This is a common mishap, and any smart cruiser carries a spare prop shaft. Katie and Jessie, do not. We were smart enough to have a wooden plug of the correct diameter to plug the hole if we were to lose the shaft. All though we had located the problem, that did not mean we knew how to fix it.

It’s really cool to have sails and all, but they are not always as beneficial as one would think. If we wanted to stay on a course to Fort Lauderdale, we were making about 1.5 knots. This would have put us in Fort Lauderdale the following day. No thank you. If we adjusted our course to make better time, we would have been carried to Georgia in the Gulf Stream. At that moment, we were in the thick of it. We didn’t want to go to Georgia. We had Reggie who had to get to land to potty before sundown, and then we had Black Dog, who was being flown to Fort Lauderdale that afternoon.

Given that we were floating fairly quickly in the wrong direction, and knowing a tow was a necessity, we didn’t waste any time. Every 15 minutes or so, we would see a boat in the distance. Mostly large yachts and fishing vessels. We stood in front of the large white sails and waved our arms. We hailed every vessel we saw on the horizon over the VHF. Time and time again we were unseen or ignored. I made it obvious over the radio we needed assistance, but it was not an emergency. One sports fish was coming particularly close, and seemed to be on a course to Fort Lauderdale. We were certain this was our chance. Once again, we hailed over the VHF, and stood on the cabin top waving our arms. The boat flew right by us, and a family waved back at us smiling. NOOOOOO…….

Five minutes later, we hear over the radio “Katie and Jessie was that you? How you girls doing?!”

Jumping out my seat I respond “Yes! And we need assistance, who is this?”

Turns out, the sports fishing boat who just roared past us, was a family we had met on a bus the night before on the way to the bar in Bimini. Dean on “Serenity Seeker” turned around immediately after I informed him we were engineless and covering no ground under sail. Seriously?!?! What are the chances, that we are 30 miles from land in each direction, and are being saved by someone we happened to meet the night before. We discussed plans to create a towing bridal to connect our boats. Dean warned us about the possibility of the cleats ripping out of our bow. Bow cleats are not the ideal way to be towed, especially in a 30 year old boat. Typically a boat has some kind of eye-let or hook rigged on the front of the haul below the bow, just above the water line for towing purposes. Louise does not.

Serenity Seeker slowed to idle, which was still keeping us both moving at 7 knots. I never would have guessed being towed could be so stressful. The wind was still light, and the Stream calm as it rolled us side to side uncomfortably. We took turns steering, which was a full body work out to maintain a single direction while being pushed, pulled, and bullied by the rollers and tow rope. Quite frankly it was exhausting, and we had several more hours to go. The cleats warping and creaking from the pressure of being yanked around. To make matters more entertaining, this fantastic family, whose entire day was now delayed on our account, was not doing so hot. Because of their slow speed, they were being rocked around in an oscillating fashion, causing all 3 daughters to lose their breakfast over the side. With nothing to do but watch the show, Katie and I felt absolutely awful. At one point we even told Dean that we would figure something else out, and that they no longer needed to tow us. It was painful to watch the ladies get so seasick. Dean laughed, refused to cut ties, and happily towed us 25 miles before passing us off to Boat Tow US.

This day once again demonstrates the kind-hearted boating community helping one another in times of need. Recently I’ve created a list of people who have gone out of their way to help us, gift or loan us something. This list is long. Dean and his family aboard Serenity Seeker were honestly a miracle. I have no idea how our day would have played out if it were not for them. Some advice for fellow boaters, please sign up for BoatTowUS. having a membership with them saved us over 1000 dollars, and they safely towed us to a marina off the intra-coastal, after Serenity Seeker handed us over.

Arriving back in the states was not at all how we had imagined. We were tired and overwhelmed, but safe, and grateful. Once docked, we wanted off. Like children on a long road trip, caged and restless. We didn’t want to know what was wrong with Louise, and we didn’t want to know how much it was going to cost to fix her. So we abandoned ship, and headed for a house. YES, a house! A family friend put us up in his Fort Lauderdale home while we spent the week preparing Louise to be unattended for the remainder of hurricane season. Thank you Brain Keenan for giving us a temporary home, and thank you Dave Gillen Jr. for providing Louise a protected dock for the season.

There is so much left to explain. What actually happened to our prop shaft. What we did to leave Louise for hurricane season. Why we left her. Where we are now, and what our next plan of action is. Stay tuned, many questions will be answered, half of which we are most likely still trying to figure out ourselves. Thanks to all who have kept up with us so far. I have been documenting this process for over a year now, and trust me it is still just the beginning. But every story needs an intermission.beingtowed Family members of Serenity Seeker took their skiff, and spent the day fishing as we were being towed. These two guys had a great time, and didn’t seem to mind one bit that their 4 hour trip had turned into a full days event.

Second leg of being towed… we got passed off to BoatUS who smoothly pulled us the last 10 miles, into the intra-coastal and several miles up a canal to a protected marina.

Last head pump out session before entering America and having to re-plumb again. My favorite job.

BLACK DOG

blackdog-2 I have known Katie Smith since I was a little girl. If I have learned anything about her it is her obsession with dogs. Not even cute dogs (besides Reggie). The ones that a bystander would most likely walk past without a glance. The tick infested, flea hoppin, nappy dread lock kind, any normal human would steer clear of. My point about her obsession, is that it is her passion. A rare passion, that takes a particular set of eyes to foresee potential. These eyes are Katie Smiths.

Our very last day in Bimini, we laid low. We spent the day organizing, resting, and enjoying our surroundings bittersweetly. The following day we would be leaving before sunrise, to cross the Gulf Stream back to the States. A trip I can claim we were both nervous about. On Sunday afternoon, Katie gets introduced to another woman named Katie, who is involved with the stray dogs of Bimini. Uh oh.

Within in an hour Katie informs me that she is a fostering a stray dog, and we will be transporting it to America. Biting my tongue, to keep myself from speaking how I really felt the idea (which was no idea at all, it was a fact) I half heartily smiled with reluctance. I immediately had visions of an unfamiliar dog, sea-sick in rough waters, crap & piss all over Louise, barking and whining itself to death. One more variable to possibly ruin our last day of traveling. You see, this is where my brain goes when I think of fostering a stray dog in the Bahamas. Meanwhile, Katie is thrilled. She’s not worried about a thingblackdog-4This is Black Dog. Her name is really Oreo. We didn’t like that name. After psychoanalyzing, and spending some time with her we learned that she had very little personality. She was scared, lost, confused, a sweetheart really, and didn’t know what to do with herself. Poor thing. She was just a Black Dog. blackdog-3 Black Dog lived with Bronco, in the back yard of a random Bimini home. Bronco was not only Black Dogs father, but also the possible father of her puppies. Weird things happen on small islands. They were fenced in, but no one necessarily looked after them properly. Locals Katie and Grant, who are involved with the stray dogs, played a role in keeping these two alive. blackdogBlack Dog is a 1 1/2 year old pit bull. Her flea population was comparable to the population of China. Her tick population comparable to that of Bimini, not much over 1000. I was scared to get close enough to photograph this, so I didn’t. blackdog-6Katie and these two superstars spent hours removing Black Dogs Ticks. A process I opted out of. She said there were at least two or three hundred ticks on each ear. blackdog-5It turned out Katie and Grant had a friend Kathy who is a pilot. Kathy flies back and forth to Fort Lauderdale, and offered to fly Black Dog to the states the next day. This way, we would not have to put her on a boat for the first time in her life, only to cross the Gulf Stream which is known to be one of the more dangerous crossings for cruisers.

A fundraiser for the strays of Bimini, Island Paws, and a couple generous pitty lovers helped cover Black Dogs vet bills, when we returned to the States. She was all cleaned up & healthy within a week when, a couple named Jenny and Bob provided Black Dog with a loving home in Fort Lauderdale. Jenny and Bob had met Black Dog in Bimini before, and were aware of the fact that Katie had taken the initiative to foster her, with means to find her a family. By the time we had to say goodbye to Black Dog, even I was a little sad to see her go. Katie went above and beyond to save this one. The amount of time, and organizing she put into making this happen in such little time, was truly impressive.

When we were little girls, Katie nick-named me Brave. After this event, she gets the title, not me. Katie Brave. If you are interested in fostering a Bimini dog, there are so many amazing pups running around the Islands that need a family. Check out https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Stray-Dogs-of-Bimini/128258473969736 to learn more!!!!

Mary Jean Bentley

Let me introduce you to the most hysterical, fascinating and altruistic human being I have ever encountered. She is about 5 and a half foot tall, with a killer body, little fake boobies, oily golden skin, and a face that expresses her lifestyle before her figure. She smells of tanning oil, cigarettes, cheap perfume, and vodka – all at once. I thought Katie and I swore like sailors. Apparently not. Mary Jean Bentley aka MJ, is our new best friend. mary jane-2When we first crossed over to the Bahamas, we arrived at Bimini Sands Marina. While sitting by the pool one morning I hear a loud, raspy voice hurtling my direction in a golf cart she is steering far from sober. At 10:00 am, MJ is dressed up in all yellow, plugs in her boom box by the pool, turns it up loud and plops her Stoli vodka and assortment of juices on the abandoned pool bar. She knew everyone on the premises, and everyone knew her. Each individual was referred to as “Baby” or “Baby girl”, no one had names. But MJ had a name. You couldn’t miss her. You could taste hear her from a mile away. mary jane-3 “Every two weeks I fly to Fort Lauderdale to get my nails done”mary jane-5 Completely entertained by this crazy woman who could not sit still for more than 3 seconds, or carry a conversation for more than 30. I sat quietly observing her interaction with people. Strangers or not, she wanted to know everything about everyone. I could see the looks on peoples faces when she turned around, the comments, the raised eyebrows. I couldn’t help but become curious about why she was the way she was. A blonde, white woman, with a ghetto southern accent, living here on the island of South Bimini. From the outside, a hot mess, but it was obvious she had a hell of a story.mary jane-6 After waiting till she finished her next cocktail, I walked over and asked her if she would mind if I took her photo. She was flattered, a little nervous, camera shy, but more than willing to fill me in on her life. Thirteen years ago when Bimini Sands Marina needed investors, MJ and her ex-husband both from Atlanta, GA, helped fund the project. They were promised the first condo built on site. Her Husband later abandoned her, leaving her with the condo. She never left Bimini, and continued to invest in not only Bimini Sands, but in both the North and South islands. When I asked her if she had ever worked on the islands she replied “Oh yes! I feed all the stray dogs, take care of the children, and make sure the police are doing their job” “Look girls, I have tons of old fishing stuff. Do you want this gaff?”mary jane-8 The woman can cook. This spaghetti sauce was spectacular, but every third bite or so, you could taste tanning oil.mary jane-9 She didn’t let us leave Bimini the first time without all of her spare groceries, a cocktail and a massive gaff. We didn’t know if we would ever see her again. In the back of my mind, I was hoping we would. All though, you can only handle her in small doses, it’s great to meet people like MJ, who become the defining moments of traveling. mary jane-10 mary jane-11

                                          OVER TWO MONTHS LATER…..

Back in Bimini Sands Marina, waiting for this tropical storm to blow through. Katie and are exhausted from our overnight, and just want to sleep. But it’s to hot, and the noseums chomp on our skin. Annoyed and impatient, knowing we will sit at this dock for the next week in horrible weather, with no where to go. We were desperate for friends, and hoping to run into MJ for entertainment. Within the first hour we arrived,  there was MJ and a little Bahamian girl named Tutu, storming down the dirt road in that same golf cart. Thrilled to have us back, she insisted on taking out to lunch. And by lunch, she meant cocktails. After cocktail number 3, she offered us her spare bedroom for the week while waiting out the storm. Katie and I looked at each other wide-eyed, smiling ear to ear knowing we would be crazy to pass up an air-conditioned bedroom, with an attached bathroom, real flushing toilet and a fantastic room mate!!! We happily accepted the offer, knowing our next couple days would be absolutely insane.MJ-TUTU-3 We got to know eachother very quickly. She was very upfront about her narcotic usage, and instructed us to knock or yell when we wanted to come upstairs. She didn’t want us to see her using, or to be involved in her bad habits. She gave us a key to the condo, fed us, and supplied us with vodka -oj’s for days. Everyday we would go on a new adventure, and every day she got louder and more entertaining by the hour. Despite her intoxication, she never forgot to collect all scrap food from the restaurants for the stray dogs, never forgot to pay her tabs, insisted on paying for everyone all the time (not just Katie and I, often the entire bar), and always over-tipped. MJ-TUTU-4 This was MJ’s gift to me. A spiky bra. Probably the coolest thing I have ever put on.MJ-TUTU-5Coffee and pancakes every morning. For MJ vodka, and pancakes.MJ-TUTU-6We all need a fake pony-tailMJ-TUTU-8MJ’s closet was a combination of a halloween store, and a strip club dressing room. With a body like hers, she could wear anything she wanted. She loved to turn heads, make a statement…. be remembered. All of the above successful.MJ-TUTU-9MJ-TUTU-10MJ-TUTU-11This is Tutu. A little girl MJ “watches” over during the week days. In all honestly, Tutu watches over MJ. Tutu keeps everyone in check. She’s smart, sassy, and has the attitude of a 14 year old teenager. Tutu yells are MJ when she is not behaving, and MJ feeds her fruit soaking in wine spritzer when she doesn’t shut up. The relationship between these two, was more like an quirky adult friendship. MJ-TUTU-12Katie and I helped watch Tutu all week. She cracked us up, and was never afraid to speak her mind. She liked to sing and knew damn well how to shake her booty. I’d say she taught us a thing or two about growing up in the Bahamas.MJ-TUTU-13MJ-TUTU-14MJ-TUTU-15MJ-TUTU-16MJ-TUTUOur last night in the Bahamas, MJ got us all dressed up and took us out one last time. She was truly sad to see us go, and it was obvious how much she enjoyed taking us in.

By the end of the week she had us both nick-named. I was “Shitty Jason” She could never remember my name, so I became Jason. The “Shitty” part came from a long trip I took to the bathroom at a restaurant, turned out the water wasn’t working so I couldn’t flush… forcing me to leave the employees with a nice gift in the toilet. Therefore “Shitty Jason.” Katie became “Katie the paper taker” after stealing some toilet paper from the restaurant when we ran out at the condo. We were introduced to the entire island as “Katie and Jason.” I went with it.

A completely unexpected delay on our route back to America. Possibly one of the greatest weeks spent all year. MJ became a great friend. Underneath all her bad habits, she has a wonderful heart, and is way smarter than anyone gives her credit. Living with her for a week, was ridiculously fun, overwhelming, and hysterical. I will never forget the drunken golf cart excursions, watching her water-ski like a pro, and laughing until it hurt. Thank you MJ, we can’t wait to see you again.

Rainbows Fireworks Hurricanes

fireworks and rainbows-11 “Apparently there is a hurricane brewing in the premises. Great. Category one, 75 mile per hour winds, predicted to be steering straight for the Bahamas by this weekend. Chantal is her name. Chantal sounds nice. Thats a lovely name, Isn’t it? How mean could a hurricane named Chantal be?

Guess it’s time to make moves. Hurricane, tropical storm, high winds… whatever it ends up being, to me is que to go home. A que to get the hell out of here. It’s Monday today, giving us a couple days, and little time to get somewhere storm safe. Tonight we will head for Cat Cay around 8pm. Exiting the anchorage before nightfall, heading 75 miles west through the night, arriving the following morning. We don’t like overnights, but every once and a while they must be done. Every weather report for this evening indicates near perfection. I am trying to nap before having to stay awake all night. Mosquitos are buzzing around my head so loud it feels like they are inside my brain. They won’t leave me alone. If they would only give me 30 minutes. Damnit.”fireworks and rainbows-12 Fire Eater. Cinnamon Whiskey. Fourth of July at Chub Cay. There were fireworks. Lot of them. Impressive actually. fireworks and rainbows-14

fireworks and rainbows-9Merica tats.fireworks and rainbows-15 fireworks and rainbows-8Burnt popcorn made on the alcohol stove. Nice work Katie. Believe it or not, it was delicious. Or maybe we were desperate.fireworks and rainbows-17 Yup, we are still friends.fireworks and rainbows-13fireworks and rainbows-18 fireworks and rainbows-19 fireworks and rainbows-20 fireworks and rainbows-21 fireworks and rainbows-23

“I don’t really know how to summarize our past 3 days. They have been beyond eventful. Thanks to Mary Jean Bentley, a woman I will further describe in my next entry. Our overnight crossing to Cat Cay, was actually the least eventful.

Hoping to make it to “the banks” before nightfall, we left slightly earlier than planned. By the time we reached the shallow stuff, it was calm, the sun was no longer, lightning surrounded us in every direction making life uneasy. Damn lightning. I was positive we were headed straight into what looked like a nasty storm. Tense. my mouth tasted like chalk again. Torn between wanting to chug water, and ignoring my thirst because of how obnoxious it is to pee in the dark. We continued on our heading. Nothing happened. Hours later, still nothing. Lightning lit up the sky, teasing us with hesitation. It stayed calm. Sections of the sky blanketed with stars, the moon just bright enough to function in the cockpit, shallow water with nothing to hit, completely alone. We took turns on watch. Successfully I got in some naps. One of the smoother overnighters we have ever had. By 8 am we were sailing through what looked like some kind of Disney movie, hollywood set, CareBear land. The waters consistent hue, nothing on the bottom to interrupt its’ color. The sky was a rich gray, with bright white cumulous clouds. Sheets of rain pouring in the distance, easily readable, giving us enough time to put everything away before we sailed into them. An enormous rainbow stretched across the sky. It lasted for ever. I have never been that close to the end of a rainbow, pretty sure we touched it.

I was really quiet, the whole night, into the next day. I think Katie was worried about me. I was half soaking up the beautiful sight before me, savoring the moment, and half stressing about this tropical storm that is barreling directly for us. We dropped the hook at Cat Cay around noon. Ate lunch. Looked up the weather report, and discussed our “hurricane plan”. Uncertain and uncomfortable with what was predicted, we relocated to Bimini Sands Marina. Twelve miles north, and our very first stop in the Bahamas 2 months ago. Here we are. Waiting. Waiting for Chantal. It is god awful hot. I am not moving, and soaking with sweat. Not a smidgin of wind. Stagnant. Noseums. America is so close. I can smell it. But it will be at least a week before this storm blows over. Oh Louise, I love you, but you drive me insane. ”

It’s my sisters birthday today. Happy Birthday Alex. I love you. By the way, she works for NASA and it a bad ass.

BIG WAVES

Coming to the Berry’s was not the greatest idea. Sure, the blue hole was great, but everything else that came in the package, not so great. Trying to leave the Berry’s, was a worse idea. Chub cay was only 14 miles away, how bad could 14 miles be. HAHAHA.

The moment we rounded the southern tip of Bond’s Cay, entering the cut that leads you to “the tongue of the ocean” things got a little freaky. And by a little freaky, I mean the most scared we have ever been in our lives. Sure we have been in scary storms, high winds, uncomfortable seas, but waves double to triple my height? Nope. Over the course of a mile, the ocean floor drops from 20 feet to 6000 feet, and on this particular day, created swells so large and so close together, Louise just about disappeared in-between each wall of water. In-between each wave, I was certain one of us was going overboard. The glassy anchorage behind us, had us cringing to turn back. But I was too scared to turn around. I was too scared to continue. What do you do when both options looks like death. I kept the most comfortable angle to conquer the mountains, and was terrified that if I turned us around Louise would get smacked the wrong way, knocking us over within a 180 degree turn. I death gripped the tiller, and we carried on.

I wanted to go home. I wanted to be anywhere in the world but where I was. Katie and I were silent. She got out the life jackets, put Reggie inside, velcro’d our Spot GPS to her arm, and had the VHF in hand. We were not tethered onto Louise, all though we should have been. Our goal was to get to deep water, with hopes the swells would be farther apart, and more pleasant to ride. The two knots we were making and the single mile we had to get through first, felt like an entire day. Louise did so great. She sliced through the waves like it was no big deal, meanwhile Katie and I making eye-contact every once awhile, still silent. When we were able to change our course towards Chub, we surfed the waves instead of fighting them. By that time, we managed to hold our bodies in one place, started to sing disney songs as a distraction, and poured out our last precious Budweiser into the ocean asking the sea gods to protect us.

I worked the tiller for hours, letting it push and pull naturally with the waves, trying not to fight it. Our tiller, and our rudder, contain small cracks, greatly accentuating the terrifying factor. My muscles hurt. But driving calms me down, and it stressed Katie out. So it wouldn’t have worked any other way. My mouth was so dry from nerves, it tasted like chalk. When I had to pee, I dropped my underwear right there, and peed on the cockpit floor. There was no other safe place. I kept my eyes ahead, ignoring the massive waves that consistently came up from behind. Katie kept her eyes astern, warning me every time there was a particularly huge one. At that time I would close me eyes, and just let the seas do as they please with us. We reached 9.1 knots surfing a wave. I cheered because my eyes were fixed on the knot indicator, while Katie’s face went blank white while witnessing the reason for our speed.

The only thing that kept us going, kept us from turning around… was the thought of our Uncle Tari and my dad being on board. My dad, would have been completely relaxed in the cockpit smoking a cigarette, while Uncle Tari would have had a massive smile on his face, bouncing as he laughs at mother nature, and enjoying watching us be that uncomfortable. That alone, was the reason we continued.

Fourteen miles of hell. We knew we were not going to die, we knew we were okay. We were just really scared, and had never seen swells like that before. Pulling back into Chub Cay after a month of being away, we felt at home. We were so proud of Louise, proud of Reggie, proud of each other. I’ve never been so happy to be safety anchored… ever. We sat in the cockpit and talked non stop over cinnamon whiskey after an entire day of silence mixed in with singing. We talked through different scenarios, situations, what we would do if this happened… or if that happened. Thankful to be safe, thankful for each other, we slept like children.

Bad things come in three’s.

Whoever is keeping up with our story, I would like to let you know that Katie and I are safely back in the states. After receiving some emails of worrisome followers, concerned about hurricanes and such… please know we have survived, and now are safely docked and secured back in America. Some very interesting things happened along our way home, and there are several stories coming about our returning. So please stay tuned, enjoy, and know that all is well. In the mean time…

THIS IS A LONG STORY- Hoffman’s Cay, Berry Islands.

This is when things turn down hill. When bliss balances with trial and tribulation. Yes this is me being dramatic, but hear me out. Last minute, we made an executive decision to cross over to Hoffman’s Cay in the Berry Islands. We had heard of a “blue hole” located there with our names on it.

It began with a morning’s relaxing cruise leaving Nassau. Later turning into a race against the angry skies. Fifteen miles out of Hoffman’s, we were surrounded by black clouds and lightning strikes that looked like a hollywood scene. Fake. Too fierce to be real. We zig-zagged around for an hour, trying to choose the wisest path. We actually did a great job as storm-avoiders, and wondered why there is such a thing as a storm-chaser. Our last couple miles we were moving at the speed of a spaceship. Which is fast. The wind stopped spinning in circles, and settled behind us, pushing us through the deep grey water. Both sails reefed. Heeled over at an almost uncomfortable angle. The wind and rain sweeping us right along. We were both anxious. Feeling inexperienced if the wind grew any stronger. So we decided to quit. We sunk the boat and went down with the ship. The end.

When we arrived at the anchorage, tired, and ready for happy hour, the wind didn’t care that it was anchor time. Essentially she gave us the bird and kept blowing full force while we were trying to set the hook. I was having a hard time holding us over small patches of sand, as the wind wanted to take me other places. Katie was having a hard time with the anchor chain’s shackle fitting through it’s eyelet in rough weather. Things just were not working out. The anchorage was not protected from current conditions, making the task super fun. Katie got her work out in, dropping and pulling up trow at least 5 times as we screamed back in forth to each other over the howling current of air. It was a classic show. By the time we settled, hunger triumphed fatigue. We popped open a can of cheese ravioli, and baked beans, close to an edible temperature thanks to the hot engine. Ate like barbarians. Later slept like insomniacs, as Louise plunged side to side as if she were trying expunge us from her belly. Chill out Louise, you wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for us.

That was the prelude to the good part of the story. Pay attention now. Whoever said bad things happen in threes, was correct. And I commend them on their accuracy. The following evening, Katie and I spent our later hours sitting in Tara’s cockpit with Nick and Hil. For the next day, Nick and Hil had plans to head for Florida, and we didn’t. This meant we would finally be parting ways, a situation we had avoided for so long.

Anyway, bad thing no. 1. While chatting away in the cockpit, there was a citronella candle full of hot wax that got knocked over. It poured like Niagara Falls all over Reggie’s face, eye, mouth, neck, leg, etc, you get the point. In return Katie wanted to take him to shore immediately so he could swim, to soothe his skin from the burn. Keep in mind, it is dark outside, and we are not sitting in a pond here…we are still at an exposed anchorage. Katie and Reggie hop in Madbob and zoom to shore. With nothing but a little headlamp to keep an eye on them, they disappeared into the blackness. Nick, Hil and I carry on with conversation. Time had gone by, enough time for one of us to say, “Why are they taking so long?” Finally, we spot Katie’s headlamp approaching Tara. She dinghys up to Tara’s port side, with a face full of pain. Holding back her tears, she looked at me and said, “We need to go home now.”

Bad thing no. 2. While Katie was on shore, she lost her balance pulling Madbob off rocks. She had fallen full weight, onto a killer, spiky, sea urchin. When she held up her hand to show us why she needed to go home, it looked like a bomb seconds away from exploding. Blown up like a balloon, black spikes pierced through all of her fingers, blood trickling from each wound. Each spike went in one side, out the other. Twenty some spikes sticking out in every direction. Then she lifted her shirt, and sure enough, more black spikes piercing her side. We went back to Louise, got out the doctor kit and played doctor. I am a bad doctor. Good thing med school was never on my agenda. She was in so much pain, her hand continuing to grow like a pretzel sitting in a glass of water. Gross. All of the exposed spikes had cracked off, leaving the rest puncturing deep through her skin. Over the VHF, Nick educated us on these awful creatures, and how we would have no luck trying to remove each spike. If you tried to dig it out like a sliver, her body sucked them in further, her tissue closing around the foreign object, holding it hostage. Apparently, on each sea urchin spike, there are microscopic barbs all over the surface that grab hold of your skin if you try to pull it out the same way it went in. Like a fish hook. They are also hollow, making them extremely fragile, and breaking upon my inexperienced surgery. For Katie, I prescribed the rest of our aspirin, made up her bed, dinghy’d back to Tara and stole the very last of their precious ice cubes. We both knew how badly they needed that ice. Without it, the rest of their food will go bad. Now those are good friends.

Another insomniac night as Louise did her expunging exercise again. This time, she really seemed to want us out. The wind picked up, and rollers roared through a small cut between islands nearby. Side to side we rocked. The weight of my body couldn’t even keep up its motion. I wish I had a photo of my positioning. I was in the v-berth, sideways. My arms over my head, pressing against the starboard hull. My legs became tree trunks planted on the port side hull. This way, I could hold myself in place. Katie was in the living room. God knows how she was holding herself in place, she only had one hand. A rolling wave larger than the rest came and smacked the hull so good, that it hurt. Literally.

Bad thing no. 3. My Canon 40D with its big ole lens comes flying off the shelf above me, smacking me in-between my eyes on the bridge of my nose. For the story’s sake, let’s just say it hit me at its terminal velocity. Felt like a ton of bricks, not a camera. Well if I wasn’t wide awake already, I was then. I sat up with out saying a thing, but certainly it broke my face. At least I thought. I have never gotten socked in the face, and will now spend the rest of my life avoiding the possibility of such a thing. It hurts. For the remainder of the evening, my head ached like I have never before experienced.

The next morning, after another sleepless night…Reggie looked like he came straight from Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. Katie’s hand and side appeared to need medical attention.  Not gonna lie, it looked horrendous. My nose the size of a clown, and eyeball starting to fill in with a beautiful array of greens, yellows, purples, and browns. I think they call this “a black eye.” I have no pictures of these events. No proof. You just have to believe me. But when my camera, whom I have always considered one of my best friends, stabs me in the back (or the eye) I really wanted nothing to to with him. I was so angry at my camera. How could he do that to me? After all these years. All these places we have traveled together. I barely touched the thing for the rest of the trip. To put it lightly, the three of us had a really crappy day.

Nassau – Round two

nassau-3Nassau. Round two. If you happened to read about last time we were in Nassau, you will remember we were not too thrilled about the experience. This time, we quadruple checked the weather, making sure a rain storm was not in our future so we wouldn’t get stuck like last time. It was an awfully long day crossing over from the Exumas. Hot. Lordy it was hot. Patrick, our Simrad auto-pilot hooked up. Dodging coral heads across the shallow bank. Easily readable while the sun was high in the sky. I spent hours on the bow, scraping old caulk off the deck that should have been done a year ago, attempting to catch the slightest breeze. Unsuccessful. Exumas far behind us, and the city of Nassau on our horizon.

While pulling up to the docks, we discovered the Texaco station, next door to Nassau Harbor Club (where we stayed last time) was under half the price. At 20 dollars a night, including water, versus 56 dollars a night. Score. Across the street, Starbucks and Fresh Market. In America, I avoid Starbucks. in the Bahamas, I sprint there. Starbucks meant air conditioning, bathroom with flushing toilet, iced coffee, outlets, good enough internet to call my family, and lets not forget about the pastries. I was inches from figuring out a way to shower in their bathroom sink.

Going to Atlantis for the first time in our lives, after being out of civilization for a while was…eye opening. One of the more bizarre afternoons I have ever spent. I felt like cattle being herded with the crowds. Like I was being manufactured while going up the water escalator in a plastic tube. Trying not to focus on the fact that my skin was contacting the rubber like glue, squeaking in the same place as everyone else’s ass who sat on it before me. In the center of thousands of people being directed and circulated without even being aware. I felt native, next to all the fair skinned foreigners who had burnt themselves silly. Broke, next to the Ladies with Burberry bikinis and apple martinis. Rich, next to the youth who knew nothing about this country outside Paradise Island. Happy, that our experience in the Bahamas had absolutely nothing to do with your typical family vacation. Time to go. And thank you to dear friends of Nick and Hilary, who provided us with their access pass so we could lose our minds. It was great. I wish I had photos of this. But I don’t.

Oh, I forgot to mention we were stuffed in the back of a cop car one night while walking home from Paradise Island. Us chicks figured that Nick, being the man of the crew, would scare off any kind of criminal, being 6 foot something and Michelangelo like. Apparently the Nassau sheriff thought differently. He kindly offered us a ride home, as he politely commented that walking home in the dark was not the greatest plan of action. Which we knew. But vodka oj’s make you fearless when you have a knife and mace in your purse. And a Michelangelo sidekick. Nassau round two. Success.    nassau-6 nassau

nassau-5nassau-4nassau-2

Camp Driftwood

driftwood1It’s been nearly a month that we have been exploring the Exumas. Already we have returned to the first anchorage we crossed over to from Nassau. Allans Cay, where all the iguanas are. This time, we are the only ones here. The whole anchorage to ourselves. Tara already left for Nassau. We are stalling behind them, avoiding saying goodbye to the Exumas. Tomorrow morning, we cross the “Yellow Bank” back to New Providence. Hoping this time around, will be better than the last.

It almost seems rude to leave these islands behind. Like we are supposed to leave them with something in return for the life long memories they have left us. I suppose we left several locals with faces to remember, a story to tell of two ridiculous chicks traveling on a whim…which is apparently rare?

Before Allans, we spent some time at Shroud Cay. We took Madbob (dinghy) through mangrove lined waterways that twisted and turned through the island. This allowed us to access the East side by going through versus all the way around. It all seemed very fake. The colors of the water and vegetation so bright it hurt my eyes. We looked Japanese as we tried to focus on what was ahead. Is this real life? We discovered “camp driftwood” which was listed as a must-see site in the guide books. Camp driftwood was camp waste-land. Piles of plastic. Kids toys. Shoes. Jerry cans. Nets. A hammock in some trees, and a swing. Disturbing actually. All things that had washed ashore, and became one big bundle of joy. We had fun anyways. Ran out of gas on the way home. Typical.

driftwood-2 driftwood-3 driftwood-4 driftwood-5 driftwood-6 driftwood-7 driftwood-9 driftwood-10 driftwood-11 driftwood-12 driftwood