For Adam’s Bahamian birthday I put a tea light on a stack of Pop-tarts. I went to bed the night before with grand plans of making a huge stack of pancakes with cute things written on them, only to realize that morning that I live on a boat with no pancake mix or flour. Already we are starting to realize how difficult it is to get anything in the Bahamas. If you want broccoli you had better get to the store within a day or two of when the broccoli comes in. Indeed the fresh food area in any store we have been in looks like a going out of business sale. Far more then half the bins are empty most of the time. So we adapt. We know the fresh food comes in on Mondays and there will be fresh food for a couple of days, the selection dwindling as the days go by. As we don’t have a refrigerator, by Sunday it’s inevitably back to rice, pasta and root vegetables for every meal. This does not seem to upset us, in fact it has given us a new appreciation for fresh food. Bananas and Oranges are in season so when we are really hard up we can go pick from the trees in the more rural parts of the islands.
After Pop-tarts and coffee we went into town and stuck our thumbs out. Margaret picked us up. She was a tiny old Bahamian lady. She had short salt and pepper hair and her skin was dotted with charming freckles. She was wearing a chunky white sweater and I was sweating in a tank top. With her cute chubby fingers she pointed out all of the buildings her son had built as we drove by them, the pride dripped off of her. She pointed out her own house and then kept going, taking us all the way to the caves we wanted to see on the far, far north side of the island. We hadn’t realized how far away they were but were undisturbed as it seemed very easy to get rides in the Bahamas. Later when we would run into her in town she would make us promise to come to the beach bar the next day for rolls she would bake for us. We had been planning to leave the island that day but decided to wait because we wanted to experience Margaret’s self-proclaimed best rolls on the island. She would never show. But that didn’t make us love her any less.
The caves, or cave, as we were a little concerned about how fast the tide was rising inside the cave we did get to, was beautiful. Someone had told us earlier that they weren’t worth the jaunt out to see them. This gentleman was vastly mistaken. Even after what happened after the caves I’m still glad we went. The boys might not agree. The cave wasn’t very deep but looking out at the blues of the water from the shade of the cave was pure magic. Someone had stacked rocks, Buddha style, in the back of the cave. It was cool and it smelled like wet rock and I was happy. We couldn’t stay long because the tide was rising rapidly and it was clear that at high tide this particular cave would fill with water so we climbed around the huge rock face nearby for a while instead. At the top we could see out into the ocean for miles. The blues starting almost white and getting darker every mile.
We began the walk back. We quickly realized that the problem with hitchhiking is not getting rides to where you want to go but was perhaps getting back. We passed Margaret’s house and looked intently at it hoping to get noticed… She wasn’t home. We were already hot, thirsty and were quickly becoming giant, spoiled, American babies. I was a little better off then the boys as I had thought to bring a long sleeved rash-guard with a hood. It kept me cool and kept the sun off of everywhere but my face. I stuck a huge leaf in the hood to act as the bill of a ball cap, shading my face. Adam stuck a leaf in each side of his hat to shield his ears and neck. He also had long sleeves. Poor bill baked. We looked ridiculous. We walked and walked. It started to feel like we were in a movie as the heat waves rolled and rolled off the pavement. Bill took the backpack so that he could wear it over one arm and then the other to try and keep the sun off of each for as long as possible. We were passing houses but no one was driving from them toward town. There was no shade. It was noon and the sun was directly above us. We walked and walked. Eventually the rash-guard couldn’t even help with the heat so I grabbed a huge palm to shade myself with as we walked. We were so thirsty.
“Guys!” I said, letting my voice get high and out of control, “I once heard a guy say that by the time you are thirsty it is already too late!” It is true that I once heard someone say that and I was trying to bring some humor into the situation. We sang Rocket Man and Daniel and joked and prodded and annoyed each other as we walked on. We talked about the adventures we have had together and anything we could think of to keep our minds off the intense Bahama heat. I began searching the houses for sings of outdoor water pumps. I didn’t find one.
We walked and walked and walked.
Finally, mercifully, a car. I put on my most pathetic face (probably unnecessary as we were covered ridiculously in leaves, with any skin showing red as a lobster) and stuck my thumb as far into the road as it would go. It stopped. I threw my palm and sprinted for the car. The boy who picked us up was young, very dark and had short dreads flying every which way around his head. He was shirtless and thin as a rail with huge lips. He barely looked at us. He was on the phone when we got in and put on loud gangster rap after his phone call ended. I did get his name, Tracy, but he was less interested in us then most people who pick us up. He did seem surprised for a second and finally looked at me with at least partial interest when I said we had walked from the caves. He dropped us at a liquor store in town where we could get rides anywhere. We got a huge bottle of water from the cooler and each one of us immediately gave ourselves brain freezes.
From there we hitched, in an ancient, beat up truck, with Michael, an old man with a lovely, sweet face, to the beach bar where we had left our dinghy. How glorious the shade was. It energized us right away. We ordered frozen Pina Coladas and more quickly then we expected(the cute, short, chubby lady bartender really liked us) got day drunk.
The water is hard to explain. You can’t tell how deep it is because you can clearly see the bottom as well in 20 feet as you can in one foot. I have never seen water so beautiful. We went to get in our dinghy but got in the water instead, unable to resist it. We swam around and laughed tipsily at and with each other.
Eventually we dinghied out to the boat. Since we were already wet and it was still hot we jumped back in. I began scrubbing Key West off the bottom of the dinghy and they swam around trying to spear fish. They eventually swam back near the boats and I could hear them laughing.
“Jos!” Adam said. I swam over. They were looking at something in the water. I peeked below the surface and there was a tiny gray fish with a bright yellow tail, no bigger then a quarter, swimming around there heads. Bill kept laughing so hard his mask would fill up with water. Fish swim away from humans, not at them(except barracudas. Barracudas love Adam). Bill said that the little fish had followed him out of the grassy area and all the way back to the boat. As I watched, the little fish swam around and around them. It was completely uncharacteristic fish behavior. He wanted to be as close to the boys as possible. They were completely infatuated with him and he with them. I left them, and their girly laughter, to finish the dinghy.
Eventually they went into the boat. A little while later the little fish was suddenly three inches from my mask, wagging his little tail and looking at me. I laughed and my mask filled up with water. I came up to empty it and he was still there when I went back under.
“Did you guys bring him over here?” I yelled.
They laughed. “No,” they said together.
I scraped and scraped and that little bugger stayed with me the whole time, comically eating the algae as I scrapped it off. He stayed four inches from my face, his little cheeks full as he munched. If I thought he was gone I had only to look under an arm and there he’d be happily wagging his bright little tail to stay with me. I actually had to be careful not to hurt the little guy. He was so tiny. and he wanted to be so close. This went on for an hour or more. At some point clouds started rolling in. I got cold and had to get my pruned ass fingers out of the water. If we looked really hard we could still see him swimming around the boat looking for us hours later.
At some point dolphins came swimming into our anchorage. When they came relatively close Adam jumped in. As he swam up to them he began diving and flipping and turning in circles. Bill and I died laughing. Deep belly laughs that made my sides hurt and went on and on as he tried to breach the water like they did. Someone had told Adam that the more you act like a dolphin the more interested they will be in you. He did get right up to them for the first time so there may be some truth to this but mostly it was just brilliant hilarity for Bill and I. It was an amazing experience for him. The water was so clear and he was mere feet from them as they dove and breached the water over and over. At one point even Bill and I could hear them squeaking at him. Nothing I could have done or cooked or planned would have made a better birthday than that did.
The next morning before we pulled anchor Bill jumped in to cool off.
“Honey,” I said to Adam below, “I’m pretty sure Bill was humming the Little Mermaid song before he jumped in.”
We finally sailed off the anchor. It was an amazing feeling. We were getting better and better rapidly. I truly can not explain how wonderful that feeling was. everyone worked their part expertly and it was the smoothest thing any of us had done together thus far. It intoxicated us all.
Adam threw a dock line in the water and we took turns being dragged as we sailed placidly through the water. I have never experienced anything like that before. The terrain under the boat was perfect. We passed huge rock formations with hundreds of fish. We were sailing fairly slowly, enough to really enjoy the scenery as we were dragged along but fast enough to keep it all exceedingly interesting. When Bill was being dragged a fish that looked six inches long (but he swears was three feet) followed him and scared him out of the water. I will admit that I kept thinking about the line we troll for fish with and wondered if we weren’t just bait for sharks. I kept looking behind. Nothing came for me.
Every sail is completely different and that day it was to be an utterly romantic one. The sun shone brightly in the cloudless sky. The air was cool as we made our own breeze. There was very little wind, just enough to move us forward. The swells were huge and gentle so the boat rose and fell, rose and fell all day. The sea was teal, clear and almost painfully beautiful. We hugged a coast that was sometimes beautiful white sand beaches and sometimes small bluffs. The waves would smash against them and reach powerfully into the air. Sometimes I would read or we would all watch the sea pass by or we’d crank up the tunes and have a mini dance party on our sturdy little ship. Everything was so easy and lovely and shiny and happy.
“Do you guys think we’re slowing down a little?” I asked the quiet.
“What do you mean?” Adam asked a he sipped the toxic looking green drink Bill had made from whatever booze was left from America.
“I mean we’re just bobbing here, yet no one has mentioned turning on the motor, we’re all just super content right now to be going like two knots.” I replied.
“Measuring time in days instead of hours.” Bill said. “You can quote me on that.” he added as he tipped his drink at me.
We talked about life, love and freedom. We swapped old stories of coming through the Gulf of Mexico. How utterly inexperienced, fearless and lucky we were. We talked about how I had met Bill twice before that time. When he moved into our space and smoothly and quickly became our third. We talked about nothing and everything and we watched the world slowly go by.