Sailing to Windward in the Bahamas

My boyfriend and I just got back from a 10 day sail to the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas! I should really say that we survived a trip to the Abacos! Our boat is little. It’s an F27 Trimaran.  I’ve tried to explain to people that it may sound luxurious and romantic but it’s a lot like camping on the water and a whole lot of work! There were some lovely moments in the trip but the REAL story is that this trip kicked our butts, tested our relationship, taught us a lot about what we do and don’t enjoy and we were very glad to make it back in one piece!

My boyfriend tried to warn me. For about a month before we left he kept asking me if I was sure I wanted to sail over the gulf stream in our boat? Would I really be ok camping on our small boat for an undecided amount of time? He’d been to the Bahamas before in a small boat so he knew exactly what we were in for. I assured him I would be fine! I’m a rugged wilderness girl! I can handle it! I also had total faith in him and knew he wouldn’t put me in an unsafe situation. What I didn’t realize was exactly how wild and vast the passages would be!

We set out on that first day to cross the Gulf Stream from West Palm Beach to West End. The weather looked good except that the wind was coming from the exact same direction we were sailing! As anyone who sails knows, going directly into the wind is bumpy, wet and uncomfortable and for 50 miles we crashed into wave after wave covering our foul weather gear (YES we wore our foulies on the way to the Bahamas!)  in salt crystals! And it continued like that for the first 3 days!

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(Day 3 of sailing into the wind!)

It was exhausting and frustrating! But there was good along with the bad. Eventually the wind and weather calmed down and we had a few enjoyable days of sailing. My favorite stop was at Manjack Cay. I had been longing to spend some time on the beach – after all that’s what you go to the Bahamas for right? We pulled our tri up onto the pristine white sandy beach just as a small nurse shark swam in front of our boat patrolling the shallows. We spent the afternoon walking the beach and checking out the marine life.

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(Maravilla on the beach at Manjack Cay – soooo dreamy!)

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( I imagined these Rays as a courting pair – her leading slowly and him waiting for his chance!)

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(A sea slug(? )That didn’t like me touching him(?) and squirted purple ink!)

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(Sand so deep and soft it felt like walking in deep snow – except warmer! There were no footprints but mine!)

Later that evening we were greeted by Brenda who was staying on a neighboring trimaran. She invited us to a full moon party that evening on another part of the island. It was at that moment that I realized what it feels like to be a part of the sailing community! It didn’t matter what kind of boat we had, how big our motor was, or if we were grumpy or kind. We belonged! We were sailors and we were welcome and invited! We spent a lovely evening meeting other sailors with all kinds of boats from big Catamarans to gaff-rigged Schooners. We visited by the fire and even howled at the full moon!

Luckily during our ten days out at sea we didn’t have any major difficulties. Having an engineer as a boyfriend is a very good thing because he can fix anything and doesn’t give up easily! Even if he has to almost hang off the boat to get to it!

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I made sure to take some time for yoga as well. Yoga is how I stay fit and flexible and it helps me remain calm and focussed. It allows me to let go of any negative energy I’m holding and I had a lot of it on those long 6 or 8 hour sailing days! It was not easy on a small boat but I was able to practice on the outside nets a couple of mornings and even did a little practice in the cabin!

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(Lots of time for meditation on a long passage!)

No one can talk about the Bahamas without mentioning how beautiful it is! There were portions of the ocean that were so bright that it looked like someone was shining a light from underneath the water! Sand so white and soft that it felt like baby powder, water so clear you can see all the way to the bottom!

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The water is so blue that it doesn’t even look real!

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(This is my favorite photo from the whole trip! Yes, it really is that lovely!)

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(Water so clear you can see everything on the bottom! Looks like a Monet!)

As we began to sail back toward home from the Bahamas my mind was turning over and over thinking about my experiences out there. What had I learned? How did I feel about sailing – especially long passages with not much to do? How rugged was I? Did I feel like a success?

I had a lovely time. I am proud of myself for sailing upwind multiple days in a row and being a good sport. I’m a good partner to have on a boat. I can grind up the main, raise the jib, act as the Windlass over and over until we get a good grip on some sand. I can spend all day in the sun and wind and still smile at the end of the day. I can swim and snorkel and hike and walk beaches to explore each and every new place we see. I can cook and keep the boat clean. I can use a camp shower in an open cockpit. I am brave and adventurous and strong.

But, I also learned that I’m a little older than I used to be. Things are not as easy for me physically as they were a few years ago. I enjoy some comforts like refrigeration and a stove. I prefer shorter sailing days and more time for exploration on land. I learned that the ocean is a wild and dangerous place and that you have to be rugged to sail on those deep blue inky depths that swell and roll and push you around. And I also learned that I would like to have a boat with standing head room and maybe even an electric windlass! LOL.

Fair winds and Following Seas to all of my sailing sisters out there! Go get em and be safe out there!

 

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