Adam sailed us into a bay with a couple boats bobbing lightly on their anchors. He turned upwind and the momentum of the Talisman easily carried her parallel with a boat on either side. The head sail luffed lightly in the breeze and he pulled it in as I dropped the anchor to the sand in the gorgeous blue water below.
An adorable little beach sat about 300 yards in front of us. Small bluffs came out to each side around our boat. The sun shone brightly overhead. You could have called the whole procedure romantic if you were that sort.
A little while later I heard the chink, chink, chink of a windless slowly lowering an anchor. Then shouting. I went upstairs, as I dried my hands, to see if I could be of any help. Adam was already half a mile away trying to spear us some lunch. A beautiful, 45 foot, monohull sailboat motored in from the same direction we had come.
The wind was light and lovely. The sail over had been blissful for us and the conditions couldn’t be better for anchoring. We were in about ten feet of water. The ground underneath was slightly grassy and sandy. All the boats already in the anchorage bobbed easily and securely on our anchors.
“FUCK YOU,” the woman yell at her mate. “You told me to go forward and then backward, which is it?!?!”
I froze and watched her bleached blond head berate him as he reached for her to calm her down. She was at the helm. He ran back and forth from the cockpit to the bow. First he lowered the anchor, then brought it up, then lowered it, then brought it up again.
He said something inaudible.
“WE’RE OVER THE FUCKING PATCH OF SAND!” she screamed as she flailed her arms wildly at him to emphasize her point.
Down the anchor went again. This time it seemed as though it would stay down. I blew out a breath, turned around and went back inside to finish drying the dishes.
Adam came home. He had replaced the spark plugs on the dinghy and was driving around and around the Talisman, like a giddy school boy, as I watched from the window laughing.
“How come those guys are leaving?” he asked, hooking a thumb out the companion way as he came downstairs. “Didn’t they just get here?” I looked out the window. Giving up completely, the defeated boat motored away.
The next day when we reached Hopetown, in the Abaco Islands, we found it charming in every way. The skinny streets, lined with lovingly, well cared for, brightly colored flowers, and lanterns, spoke of an older time. A time when you stopped your neighbors on the street for a cup of tea, a beer, or some gossip. The smell from the flowers was strong, lending it all a surreal feeling. The town is filled with small beach houses, with wide front porches and white picket fences around their small, well tended yards. The houses are bright pink, yellow, green or blue and very well maintained.
In the harbor sit sailing vessels of all kinds, from long sleek racers, to big comfy cats, to ergonomic monohulls such as ourselves. Everyone floats gracefully on their moorings.
Docks stand huddled in a circle around the boats. Some come out from restaurants, fancily set up with white cloth tables and chairs. Some are from bars who pump dance music into the harbor until well into the night, calling one to come play. Some are public docks where one is welcome to strap their dinghy for a while, so long as you follow the rules.
-Be polite, don’t tie up to the ladders, and use a stern anchor.
Above Hopetown stands the watchful and protective eye of a beloved red and whit striped lighthouse. One of the last remaining manual lighthouses left in the world.
Beaches, backed by generous palm trees, finish off the allure of this gorgeous, bucolic island town. On the outskirts of town, nature is still king. On one end of town lays a gravel road, pine needles make a blanket on the ground right up to the turquoise water, leaving a smell so reminiscent of home that it stopped me in my tracks. At the other end of town lay a mountain biking trail on which we would get lost for hours on bikes we borrowed from an amazing couple we met outside of town. On this trail we would find old, half made wooden Abaco dinghies and long abandoned, once beloved houses hugging a cliff on one side of the island.
The couple who borrowed us the bikes had seen us walking and stopped to offer a lift. They had taken a sailboat from Michigan to the Abacos, following our same route, the year I was born. They ended up stopping in the Abacos because they figured it couldn’t get better than that.
They might be right.
Being sailors themselves, they knew exactly what to offer us. First being a ride and then showers, food, water, bikes and beer. Some of it we accepted. Some we didn’t. They were kind and generous, from the way they treated us, to the way they interacted with each other. One can only be so lucky to live the kind of life they have and to find a partner one respects so much as they still do after all these years.
We will never forget them.
This place is like living in a painting. A beautiful painting, lovingly crafted and preserved and protected fiercely. When a man clear-cut a property he bought that went clear across the island someone wrote the following quote by Val Lewton on his fence, “Let no one say it (and say it to your shame) that all was beauty here, before you came.”
When I read it, looking at the bare land, spotted here and there with trees deemed worthy to stay, I inexplicably felt like crying. The next hurricane will wipe this part of the island off the map. Which the person who bought it, and destroyed it, clearly didn’t know.
As always, nature knows best.
The Abacos have been an amazing treat. Every island is better then the last. Everywhere we go the water is clear as cellophane, beautiful in color and clarity and blissfully warm as a bath tub. Every island has white sand beaches and palm trees, the makings of any quintessential paradise, but each island has its own nuanced differences. Everywhere we go the locals have distinct reasons why their island is the best island. And they are all correct.
At Manjack we swam with sharks, huge rays, funny sea turtles and a massive barracuda. I was following a sea turtle when I felt Adam tug at my flipper. I knew immediately what was happening. I had seen the barracuda following me but had not paid much attention to it. Barracudas like to watch. That’s just what they do. Adam is terrified of them. He says they are like missiles with teeth. It unnerves him that they are so attentive. The sharks don’t bother him. They don’t look you in the eye.
I kicked at him, wanting not to lose the turtle I was following. He grabbed harder and yank me to a stop. He later said that because he was behind me my flippers were stirring up the water causing bubbles. He said this would confuse the barracuda and make it think he was food. I laughed and replied, “then stop following me!”
Then he accidentally stuck his whole hand in the mouth of a sting ray.
There were boats anchored all along the shore, people watching the animals from either inside the protection of the boats or in a foot or two of water. We offered them our gear so they could get in with animals they were so excited about but they weren’t interested. “You people are nuts,” more than one said.
The sting rays felt like slimy, muscular blankets. The sharks wouldn’t let me get close enough to touch them.
After the Sharks and rays we sailed down the coast. Sometimes when we are sailing I feel light as a feather. I float along, the wind between the sails, and nothing can touch me. The whole world, from that place, is more beautiful then I ever remember it being before. The water below me is so many gorgeous shades of blue that it makes my throat tight. I never really loved an object before this boat. Sometimes when I’m in the water with her I just rub and rub her belly. I don’t know if we have infused her with our contented energies or if she has infused us with hers but she has an aura. She has been well loved, this little ship and she has imbued me with so much goodness.
We anchored right off a couple wrecks and spent the afternoon swimming through them. Two huge barges seemingly just ran right smack into the island. I have never seen so many fish in all my life. Big ones, small ones, purple ones, clear ones, black ones, yellow ones, multicolored ones, angle fish, hog fish, cowboy fish, parrot fish, grouper, trigger fish, snapper, tiny babies so small they weren’t much more then an eye ball, the biggest puffer fish I have seen yet, and hundreds I couldn’t name. All cohabiting and eating each other.
The next day we anchored at Coco Bay, on Green Turtle Cay. We walked across the island to the Atlantic side and snorkeled the most beautiful reef I have ever seen. Take everything I said about the wrecks, times it by 20 and lengthen it about a mile. It was incredible. After a couple hours we were getting hungry but when we got back to our dinghy on the other side of the island we couldn’t resist the warm water and so we swam Hemingway back to the Talisman. We went slow and chatted and showed each other things in the sand below us.
I sunburned my bum.
On the way to the Talisman we found a Queen Conch. It was fully grown and had a big enough lip on it (it was old enough) that I wouldn’t have felt bad about eating it… or so I thought. We had just been taught how to clean conch by some wonderful fisherman at Pineapples Bar further down Green Turtle Cay. When we got to the boat I set it down while I got everything inside. When I came back out there were two long stringy striped eyes peeking around the shell at crazy angles. I turned her over and she looked up at me.
Neither of us could kill her.
We really tried.
She was so cute poking just her long skinny eyes out of her little house.
We dropped her back in.
Sometimes, when we walk through the towns it feels like we are gawking. I am interested in every life, in what makes people tick in different parts of the world. Where they see dirty lawns or ramshackle houses, I see happy kids playing in the yards. Sometimes they might be embarrassed of their houses and so will usher us out and away from the door and hold their arms taught against their bodies in defense, but I am not here to judge. Only to observe. We all have happiness in our lives, for one person it might be a hundred thousand dollar car, for another it might be a box of free duck eggs fresh from the coup. These may look very different but the same parts of the brain are lighting up the same scans. Happiness is happiness and I want to see everyone’s.
Almost every day we were in the Abacos we sailed for a couple hours in the morning. Sailors always talk about the fact that every sail is different. For the last two weeks it has been one romantically perfect sail after another. The wind has been just right, and coming out of the right direction. The waves are comfortable and the sun is always shining. I sit and read a book or write a little or entertain him while he drives us slowly to the next amazing island. We anchor easily and we take the dinghy in to explore. This is the dream. This is exactly what I pictured when he asked me to sail around the world with him. I know it can’t always be like this (nor would I want it to), but it has been spectacular.
At least once a day one of us looks over at the other, sighs and says dreamily,
“can you believe this is our life?”