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.

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Homeward Bound

Journal Entry. June 21. Compass Cay.

“Can you believe it? I can’t. Today my thoughts turned in a direction they had yet to turn. Louise is heading North. North? It is time to retrace our steps towards the States. Time is going by quickly. Because it took us so long to get this far due to broken transmissions, crappy storms and obnoxious wind, we are giving ourselves a month to return. We now are familiar with the variables that keep you waiting when you least expect it. It feels weird though. It almost feels wrong. Bittersweet I suppose. We worked so hard to get this far, and now we turn back? Home does sound wonderful. No need to pretend I am not homesick, family sick, “normal-life” sick. Which may sound silly, but it’s getting close to a year that we have lived within 27 feet.

Louise is swinging in circles. Can’t seem to get situated between contradicting current and wind. I continue to relocate within the cockpit avoiding the sunset from beaming in my eyeballs. I am gripping my pen, equally as unsettled as Louise. Katie is hanging out topless like a little kid on the bow. Reggie, fast asleep by my side. Eyes caked with sand. As excited as I am to be homeward bound. I know we have a long way to go. I am scared for what is going to go wrong. What is it going to be this time? We both know it’s not going to be rainbows and butterflies, it doesn’t work that way. Luckily, if prevailing winds continue, they should be on our side. The wind put us through initiation to get here, you’d think we would be friends by now. That would be nice.”

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Laundry Time.

Black Pointe-2 Louise almost seems to be as comfortable, if not more comfortable anchored here outside Staniel Cay Yacht Club as we are. This is the first place we have stayed put this long, by choice. For some reason, it feels like there’s no need to travel further south. Every day that goes by, we find new ways to entertain ourselves. The constant flow of boaters, good conversation, great snorkeling, cold drinks, and “civilization” have kept us from continuing.

Laundry. We needed to do laundry. It had been a month. Gross. Small spaces. Dirty clothes. Dirty Sheets. Running out of places to stash smelly items. We heard of an island south of here “Black Pointe” that has a state of the art, fully functioning laundromat. Yes. That is what we need. We tried to leave Staniel one morning to charge 6 miles south with high-hopes of clean laundry that night. When we hit the open water, and turned into the wind, waves were taller than me. Louise was pushing 1.5 knots, gusts strong enough to make us uncomfortable. No thank you. Not worth an extremely uncomfortable ride for clean laundry. This was the first time we ever turned around. For some reason, the decision was really easy. Back to Staniel, to our happy anchorage we should have never left.

The following day, a local and new friend on the island, Pursy, took us and our large sacks of laundry down to Black Pointe on his boat. A fast boat. Took us 15 minutes. We spent the day there… playing dominos, drinking beers,  and making more friends while waiting for our laundry. We loved Black Pointe. Pursy borrowed a golf cart, and gave us a tour of the whole island. Girls day. Nick stayed behind waiting for us to return, worried sick because we took much longer than we had planned.  Sorry Nick. Black Pointe-3 Black Pointe-4 Black Pointe-5 Black Pointe-6 Black Pointe-7 Black Pointe-8 Black Pointe-9 Black Pointe-10 Black Pointe-11 Black Pointe-12 Black Pointe-13 Black Pointe-14 Black Pointe-15 Black Pointe-16 Black Pointe-17 Black Pointe-18 Black Pointe-19 Black Pointe-20 Black Pointe-21 Black Pointe-22 Black Pointe-23 Black Pointe-24 Black Pointe-25

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thunderballs-2 Another perk to Staniel Cay; Thunderball Grotto. A cave in which you can snorkel, where you are surely having a National Geographic experience. Or so it felt. The cave was closely located to where Louise and Tara were anchored. Nick and I swam to the cave, while Katie and Hil kayaked in what would be appropriately categorized as a floating banana with a paddle.  The current was ripping through the islands, getting there was no problem. Barely using a muscle, the water washed us in the perfect direction.

The cave was extrodinary. The sunlight shines through the holes above, beaming light through the rocks, creating a spectrum of shadow and color. In the cave, we had to swim hard. Really hard. As the tides changed the current continued to roar through the rocks. If you stopped swimming for a moment you would bang your head on low rocks. For a while, it was just the 4 of us in there, making it feel like we were exploring waters never before explored. Using Hilary’s waterproof camera, I did my best to capture all of it. A new found love for underwater photography has been created. If only I had the right equipment.thunderballs-3 thunderballs-4 thunderballs-5 thunderballs-6 thunderballs-7 thunderballs-8 thunderballs-9 thunderballs-10 thunderballs-11

thunderballs-12 thunderballs-13 thunderballs-14 thunderballs-15 thunderballs-16 thunderballs-17 thunderballs-18 thunderballs-19 thunderballs-20 thunderballs-21 thunderballs-22 thunderballs-23 thunderballsLater that week, we tried spear-fishing with our hawaiian sling. As you can imagine, this event was rather comedic. Trial and error. Six of us went, but when Katie and I drifted off in our own area, instead of doing the hunting, we were being hunted. A barracuda, the size of a semi-truck was trying to have us for supper. We turned around and faced it with the spear, but duh, it liked the shiny spike. It followed us closely, staring us in the eyes and speaking in a quiet, deep voice ” I know you are more scared of me than I am of you little girls” He was right. He backed us up on the sharp rocks where we stood in our flippers trying to hold our ground, bent over with our masks in the water watching it’s every move as if it were a Great What shark. Spear in hand, with intentions for self defense, we stood on the rocks until we felt brave enough to swim with it again.

After escaping the slimy barracuda, all we did was swim around and poke things that looked funny with the spear. We laughed so hard we could barely stay afloat, our masks filling with water every time one of us starting cracking up. I still don’t know what was so funny about it, it just was. Maybe because we ended up using our hawaiian sling as a way to feel safe, not hunt, and a way to test the squishiness of odd creatures we would never touch with our bare hands.


pigs and bombs-2 The pilots, Mark and Darren, rented a skiff for a day. There is an island just north of Staniel Cay called “Big Majors” where we took the skiff for an adventure. On this island, wild pigs roam. Not just any kind of wild pig, the kind you would find in a horror movie. Tourists come every day to feed them. Brave soldiers. I on the other hand, ran in the opposite direction. All of us girls did at least, Katie, Hil, and I. The only one who didn’t seem to have a care in the world about their presence, was Reggie. Reg just sat in the skiff curiously observing the peculiar creatures, happy to be the attractive one with four legs.

We fed them a loaf of semi stale bread. They trotted in our paths, and came right up to us (or to the bread) with no resistance. I continued to move in their opposite direction. I swore one of them was trying to eat my thigh. Which it could have in one bite. If I were to have any interaction with one, I would have hopped on his back and tried to ride it. But I didn’t. The beasts even swim out to some of the tourist boats before they even get to shore, knowing that it is time to feast. It was an interesting experience. Hilarious actually. Pigs are not cute.pigs and bombs-3 pigs and bombs-4 pigs and bombs-5 pigs and bombs-6 pigs and bombs-7 pigs and bombs-8 pigs and bombs-9 pigs and bombs-10 pigs and bombs-11 pigs and bombs-12 pigs and bombs-13 pigs and bombs-14 pigs and bombs-15 pigs and bombs-16 pigs and bombs

Katie and Jessie on a plane . com

Plane rideSo… we made some friends. Plane ride-2They have a plane…Plane ride-3 Mark and Darren from England…Plane ride-4 The controls in the cockpit slightly different than Louise…Plane ride-5 Tara, Louise, and another random vessel anchored outside of Staniel Cay Yacht Club. We flew so low over the water, surely we would de-mast our houses…Plane ride-6 Whaaaaat…?Plane ride-7 Is that a painting…?Plane ride-8 Did you know that Katie flies planes…?Plane ride-9 Normal people fly to exclusive islands, to have lunch…Plane ride-10 I thought Katie and I were weird…Plane ride-11 We landed on this cement thing…Plane ride-12 A man named Richard Nixon came to pick us up…Plane ride-13 Richard Nixon opened the doors of his restaurant just for us…Plane ride-14 We did not read books at Richard Nixon’s restaurant…Plane ride-15 She’s a busty one ain’t she…?Plane ride-16 What beautiful features you have wooden mermaid on the wall…Plane ride-17 Conch fritters please? Sorry, we are out. Snapper please? Sorry we are out, would you like a burger snack or a chicken snack? What is a chicken snack sir? Chicken and fries. Okay. Two burger snacks, two chicken snacks please…Plane ride-18 I cracked the wing after being heavily weighted from my burger snack…Plane ride-19 Tie me to the wing, and let’s fly back…?Plane ride-20 Wowww…Plane ride-21 Traveling island to island at 140 miles per hour seems wrong. Dangerous. What if you hit a bird? If we encounter a bird on Louise, we consider it our pet and hope that it never leaves…Plane ride-22 I have spent a lot of time flying around in the sky… but never…never have my eyes beheld scenery this majestic…Plane ride-23 Sure enough, what is an entire days travel on Louise, took 15 minutes in a Cessna…Plane ride-24 Apparently I fly planes as well? Questionable…Plane ride-25 Flying low over Staniel Cay…Plane ride-26Tara and Louise, patiently waiting for our return….

Meeting Mark and Darren was an ultimate highlight in the 10 months we have been traveling. These two were ridiculous. And by ridiculous, I mean completely wonderful. Just as we are island hopping via sailboat, they are island hopping via plane. These two entertained Katie, Nick, Hil and I for three days straight. They kept us fed, slightly intoxicated, and cracking up. It wasn’t long before all 6 of us were speaking in English accents.

A moment of true happiness kicked in when we took off in the Cessna and flew over the waters upon which we have been traveling. The seas that have given us hell, the wind and waves we have fought to get such a short distance. We barely knew these guys, maybe they were faking it. Maybe they were terrible pilots. Maybe something would go wrong. Maybe we would crash. I didn’t have a care in the world. I would have died happy. Would have gone down smiling. Don’t worry. We were fine. Mark and Darren were great pilots, and made us feel very comfortable. Sort of. Until we did the “negative G” maneuver. I’m not going to explain. Those of you who know… know.

Having a birds eye view of our surroundings was fascinating. Soaring over the different shades of blue, the depths, the contours, the sea life, the coral heads. Colors we use as an atlas while sailing, colors that determine our highways. An extraordinary difference traveling at such a quick rate of speed. Why didn’t we do all of this in a plane? We could be Good idea? Once again – Grateful.

Boo Boo

Warderick B&W-3Journal – June 6th Warderick Wells

“I have a Benadryl hangover. We are sitting on a mooring ball and being rocked vigorously from side to side. Louise cannot seem to sit comfortably, and neither can I. The rock makes most tasks unmanageable. I want nothing more than to make coffee, but it’s too rough. Not gonna happen. I have resorted to a fruity carbonated energy drink, and am still struggling to awake.

Tara left for Staniel Cay. Nick and Hil (aboard Tara) discovered two of his engine mounts completely cracked. They are headed for resources, and in search of the right parts to be flown in. Katie and I plan to move to a mooring field on the north side of the island, where  hopefully this rocking will subside. Then I can make my coffee.”  Warderick B&W-4

June 9th.

“To get to the north mooring field, it was 6 miles around a shallow bank with rolling seas. I was proud of Louise for handling it so well, not so proud of myself, I just wanted to get there. It already feels weird to be separated from Tara. Although we have not been traveling with them for long, the relationship we have all formed seems far deeper compared to it’s time frame.

Our days spent here at Warderick have been better than average. Slow. Quiet. Relaxed. Bored at moments. Completely entertained at others. One night we met a family who decided to take us in, and feed us a real meal. Air conditioning, ice, a toilet with a button to flush… little did they know how luxurious these things were to us. On the table in front of us sat ice cold vodka lemonades, fresh Mahi sashimi, blackened Mahi salad, followed by warm banana’s foster. We ate until we could no longer stand. We could barely speak. But once we could breath again, we ate spoonfuls of ice cream and peanut butter. This family was absolutely hilarious. We hadn’t laughed that hard, been that spoiled, or eaten such a spectacular meal in a long while. Especially after living off of nothing but canned food, and nothing to drink but warm water.

The next morning I dug up my tennis shoes, put on my i-pod and ran like hell along a trail that took me far south along the east side of the island where the Atlantic ocean is exposed. There were hills. It was rocky. Music kept me going. The wind made me work in one direction, but helped me in the other. Scenery was comparable to the California coast. Not a human in sight. Grateful – is soon becoming the word to sum up this journey.”

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The Storm

Last night at Warderick Wells, we rode out the greatest storm we have ever encountered. I was scared. Katie was scared. Reggie was scared. Louise, terrified. The four of us laid in bed silent, yet wide eyed and sweating because we had every vent and window closed. Katie nor I admitted to being nervous for hours, until we both reached our limit and started jabbering as a distraction. I pleaded guilty to eating cookies and a banana in the dark like a fat kid to settle my gut. She laughed and decided to eat some cookies herself.

The amount of water dumping on top of Louise felt heavy enough to overpower her displacement. It felt as if the weight of the rain alone would naturally sink us beneath the surface of the water. The frequency of the lightning was so intense, not even a fraction of a second could distinguish the time in-between the flashes and bone-cracking rumbles of thunder. When I was a kid, I used to count “Mississippi’s” in-between lightning and thunder. I would see the flash and start counting… “One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi… ” until I heard a rumble. However many Mississippi’s you counted in-between the two, indicated the distance of the storm in miles. Counting Mississippi’s told me how close it was, and if it was coming closer. I made sure I was near someone in the house when I got down to “three Mississippi.”

Let’s just say there were no “Mississippi’s” to be counted for an entire hour.  We were in the middle of it, it was on top of us, we were underneath it, and it was relentless. It kept me praying to whoever it is that I believe in, to keep us safe. Nick and Hillary were on the mooring ball next to us. Just Tara and Louise viciously bobbing around with nothing in the area to absorb a lighting strike except our masts. Trying to sleep under a 45 foot stick of metal, was kind of a joke. Neither of our boats are properly grounded, and I’m pretty sure if that lightning had anything to strike, it would have been either of us.

The entire time I was within arms reach of several wooden plugs to plug any hole created by the spider veining effect of a strike. Which is a really funny thought process. Because I am sure that if we were struck by lightening, my brain would be fried. I would then be trying to plug holes with a fried brain. I don’t think that would work. Oh well, I figured it was worth a shot. A week later, we learned that we had survived the first “named storm” of the season. That’s the last time I will lay down on a glassy night assuming I will get a great nights sleep.

Turkey Chili in Paradise?

Lord of the Flies-23My legs are hairy. I hate hairy legs. I feel like a hippy. But I am not. Today I shave.  It’s muggy, salty, sticky. The sky is gray and a light breeze is keeping my body at a tolerable temperature. And for that, I am thankful. I even managed to drink my coffee without immediately sweating it all out.

We spent two days at Norman’s Cay snorkeling an old plane crash from the 80’s, and exploring the island’s wasteland. It’s hard to comprehend how full of life the water is, yet the moment you step on land there is absolutely nothing. A couple stray cats who look like they have rabies, lizards that move too quick to catch a good glimpse, and plant life that would more accurately be labeled plant death. The land at Normans was almost creepy. An empty airstrip and several houses run down to their foundation. But the the sea life, abundant. Swimming in and out of the plane’s exit window beneath the surface, daring each other to swim through holes and under wings, waiting for someone’s skeleton to float out of a dark hole…fascinating.

Later, Nick, Hillary, Katie and I found a tiny island, and officially claimed it as our own. With a nice warm bottle of Captain Morgan, we played like children for hours. Talking about life, how we got here, where we are going, where we come from. Dynamic conversation during which the speaking- to-listening ratio was completely equal. It was one of the more enjoyable evenings in my life. I think we can all confidently say we will never forget it.

Yesterday we made a 21 mile trek from Normans Cay to Warderick Wells. Prevailing winds this time of year are out of the East or Southeast. They were strong and gusty out of the SE, which was exactly the direction we were trying to go. Of course. It was a wind on the nose, waves crashing over the bow, motor-boatin, wet and salty kind of day. We cruised in our birthday suits, blasted the music to distract us from the uncomfortable ride, and set up our best friend Patrick (our Simrad auto-tiller) to do all the work. Wow that thing is amazing. It’s like having another human on board. Who doesn’t talk. Which is great.

At one point in the afternoon, my hangover was begging me to eat a can of chile. Both of us had avoided going down below all day because of how rough it was, but my tummy was desperate. I clung on for dear life, and dug out a rusty can of turkey chile. Our can opener, on it’s last leg, busted  half way through opening. Oh no, all we have left is canned food, and I just broke the can opener. I used the opposite side of the can opener to puncture small holes around the edge of the can, with plans to finish the job. Soon I was holding a death machine. The can was now completely ripped apart with sharp metal pieces spiking out of the top. Don’t forget how rough the weather is okay? Still hanging on for dear life, the can turned into a barracuda and was now hunting me. Red chile was starting to spray and fall everywhere but into my bowl. Katie cannot stop laughing. I am unbelievably frustrated. When I finally got a small portion out of the death can, I cursed what was left and threw it in the ocean. On my way back to the cockpit, I tripped on a rug and flung forward as we hit a wave. The chile, remained in the bowl and I think I caught it in mid-flight. Katie was still laughing. I was still not smiling. By the time I finally got the chance to eat it, I was so pissed at that chile it didn’t even taste good.

Louise and Tara picked up mooring balls at Warderick Wells. Not necessarily the most protected mooring field, but we were tired, and in no mood to re-locate. Typically 15 dollars a night, the volunteer who maintains the field, didn’t seem to have a care in the world if we paid or not. I do not know what is in store for the day. I presume we will snorkel some reefs, and explore land. There is a place here called “boo-boo hill” where boaters etch their names into driftwood and add it to an ongoing pile at the island’s highest peak. Yes, that is where we will go.

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Feeling at home in the Exumas

Another morning feeling like I am living on a postcard. Not a cheesy postcard you find in city streets, but the 10 dollar postcard you would buy in an art galley. The ones you don’t believe were ever real to begin with. In the cockpit I sit surrounded by a glass pool, manta rays gracefully swim around Louise, without creating a ripple to disturb my visibility into the depths below. These are the kind of days that keep us going.

I slept like a baby last night for the first night in a long while. Yesterday I learned that I can use the current that rips through the islands with changing tides as a workout facility. When you jump in the water, if you don’t start swimming immediately, you will be washed away to Antarctica. I put on my snorkel and fins and swam as hard as I could next to Louise. The current didn’t allow me to cover any ground, only to keep myself in one place. It was like one of those pools you see advertised on T.V. where you can adjust your own current and swim in a human sized box of water. Those are weird. But anyway, I free-styled in one place until I was exhausted. Getting over my fear of jellyfish as hundreds of tiny brown ones flowed by me with the tide. I pretended I was Michael Phelps. He wouldn’t be scared of jellyfish.

While in a beautiful place, and a positive state of mind, Katie and I were ready to tackle some projects we have been postponing. I figured it would be hard for anything to put me in a bad mood. Since being anchored here, we spent several hours cleaning Louise’s undercarriage. Her belly accumulated some algae and grub since being power washed in Fort Myers. With masks, snorkels, fins, scrub brushes, and a suction handle, we went to town cleaning her up. This was not an easy project, and I officially suck at holding my breath.

Re-routing the head to pump overboard was the next project. I figured it was time to use our toilet like normal people do. Relieving ourselves into a bucket for 9 months is getting old. Like I said, what could possibly put me into a bad mood on a day like today? Katie was not so stoked on the whole idea, because she knew the project would be far more difficult than I had planned. All I had to do was cut a hose, and rerout it to a different fitting, connecting it to a manual pump so we can exit our goods as we please. She still opted out, and kayaked to shore as she said “Just yell at me if you need help…” hahaha. Cutting the hose was easy. What drained out of the hose was not so nice. Stale water that smelled like…you know what, drenching nooks and crannies not even a well paid plumber would want to tackle. Trying to connect the hose to the fitting was impossible. Not happening. They were nearly the exact same size, both with zero flexibility to become one. I tried everything I could to connect the two peices. Shit. Literally. I was on my own with this one. I walked away from the project slightly smelly and hopeless, but later got our brave friend Nick to help me finish the project.

Despite all the dirty work, the schedule we are on and the life we currently live have been delightful. For the most part, the charming life you all assume we have been living everyday, has finally actually become real. We awake when we awake. I drink my coffee, and eat a peanut butter and honey sandwhich while soaking up my surroundings. Katie eats her cookies and walks around land with Reggie. We spend all day playing in the water. Swimming, floating, snorkeling. Relaxing again later, and then concocting something random to call “lunch”. When we feel like it, we move onto the next anchorage, drop the hook, read books, play guitar, drink a warm beer, and go to sleep at 9. Unfortunately we both have become insomniacs. Often no matter how tired we are, we lay in bed wide awake at night hour after hour. Sometimes we talk, sometimes we don’t. I blame insomnia on the heat. Which during the day, is a non issue because we just stay in the water. But at night, swimming doesn’t seem like the better option.