Paddling Upstream

Sunday, we anchored at Big Major’s Spot – just off the famous Pig Beach.  The bottom here is anchor-loving deep sand, the water is that crazy Bahamian blue, and it’s a relatively quick dinghy ride to the “civilization” of Staniel Cay, so it’s a popular spot.



Yup, that’s the water we’re anchoring in.

Rick and I went paddling – away from the pigs, and away from the other pretty beaches because there were other people on them.  Instead, we rode the tide out of the narrow cut between Big Major’s and Fowl Cays – it’s about 20 feet wide and 20 feet deep – and landed for a while on a more private beach on the other side.



One of the beaches on Big Major’s; the one we claimed for part of an afternoon.

Before heading back, we watched a small sailboat shoot out of the cut.



This cut is so narrow that you can’t even see it as the sailboat (the mast of which you see) prepares to pass through it.

Having paddled successfully through the cut before, in both directions, I was unprepared for how fast the tide was running on this day.  In fact, every time I tried to paddle through to get back to our boat, I was shot back out as if by a slingshot.  I tried it 3 times, then retreated to a calm spot, prepared to wait for the turn of the tide if necessary.  As it turned out, I was able to land the kayak on the beach, and Rick and I carried it over a small ridge to the other side.  I certainly got more of a workout than I’d planned.

As I post these missives on our blog, I note that there is a preponderance of photos of gorgeous scenery and tales of the great adventures we’re having.  Judging from the comments and emails we’re getting, we’re inspiring no small amount of envy from the people back home, as they are suffering from an unusually miserable winter.  So, this post is intended to provide some balance – to provide some perspective of how much paddling upstream is involved to getting to those idyllic spots and halcyon days.

Just physically getting ourselves back to the Exumas from Cat Island on Friday was a challenge.  Rick was exhilarated by the sail back – it was a beam reach for almost the entire 50 miles, and Calypso was in her glory, making 7-8 knots the entire way.  She was built for this.   I, however, was not enjoying the 4-foot seas on our beam.  In addition to needing seasickness pills, I hated listening to all of our stuff banging and clanging down below, falling off shelves and out of bins (one positive: the chop shook out a wine glass I thought I’d lost).  Entering the Dotham Cut, between South Gaulin and Great Guana Cays, was even less fun, since it seemed to be wind against tide against current – resulting in a frothy washing machine of 4 foot waves tossing us around like a cork in different directions.  Luckily, it was a short ride and nothing the boat couldn’t handle.  But it had me dreaming of home, where the floors don’t tilt away from you with every step.

It’s a constant battle against the elements here.  For neat-and-clean freaks like me and Rick, this is tough to handle.

003 - Calypso at Black Point


Yes, it’s a pretty view (Calypso is the blue one).  But this photo was taken from the laundromat.  It’s not all glamorous.

Salt gets everywhere – in some places, I have no idea how.  I have found corroded spots on my Henckel’s chef’s knife – which is tucked away in a protective sheath in a drawer in the galley and never goes more than 3 feet beyond that spot.  How????



Rust stains on my “stainless” steel chef’s knife.

Once you get saltwater on any item of clothing, unless it’s thoroughly rinsed with fresh water (of which we carry a mere 100 gallons), it will NEVER dry.  So we re-wear damp swimsuits and sequester damp clothes lest they infect clean and dry gear.  Rick’s collection of hats is giving way to mildew, as is my boat tote.  And the boat is just crusty with salt; we are seldom in places where we can spare the fresh water to give Calypso a thorough rinse.  And even then, it’s a Sisyphean task, because she’s just going to get covered in salt again.

And getting ourselves clean?  Well, let’s just say we’ve learned to live with a certain ripeness.  Even when we splurge on long showers to rinse off the salt, sweat, dirt and sunscreen, it’s only a matter of minutes before we’re sweaty again.



The water certainly is beautiful; but the salt content is lethal!

When dealing with fresh food, it’s a race against spoilage and mold on the one hand, and the next time fresh ingredients can be found at the nearest market.  I’m becoming somewhat expert in buying tomatoes in varying stages of ripeness (right on down to hard and green), and ripening them myself so that there’s the hope of a good tomato once a week or so.  But once you cut into it, it’s pretty much gone.  For that reason, a crisp iceberg lettuce salad – the most banal of salads – sometimes sounds soooo goooood!


Tomatoes in varying stages of ripeness.  (The dark green ones are limes; we put them in our drinks to avoid scurvy.)

Poor Rick sometimes just throws his hands up in frustration.  It’s said that cruising is merely “fixing your boat in exotic places,” and Rick can attest to that.  In the early days of our adventure, he hoped for just a single day that he didn’t have to fix something.  It’s the nature of the beast, because of the environmental and operational stresses we put on a vessel that is, by its very nature, a compromise.  But you just can’t help but wish for things to go smoothly.



Rick, wishing for a drama-free day.

While it may seem that Rick and I are on an extended vacation, it takes work to get here, and work to be here.  So far, most days, I am glad to be here.  But there are times when I’m paddling upstream.


3 thoughts on “Paddling Upstream

  1. Pam Bailey

    Beautiful images of a great sail from your blog! The frustration sounds warranted, but, fixing the engine in that “exotic” locale sounds better than fixing it in our current weather today – snow… So happy for the two of you, enjoy and keep on blogging.

  2. Ardis HIll

    Hi, it is snowing again today, last week was so pleasant and almost all the snow had melted slowly off which was nice. My furnace quit on Sunday, and had to have some new parts put in on Monday. It was new in 1994 so has really held up well I think, and seems now a few more years to go. Your blog did make my days with you very calm and uneventful!! everyone envies me. finally decided to a dr. to see what is happening with my legs and feet. Probably the siatica (sp) nerve. go on thursday. so it goes. have a good week. Love Mom Date: Tue, 25 Feb 2014 13:19:34 +0000 To:

  3. Colin Costello

    I feel for you. This has been a hard winter. I’m up North drowning in spreadsheets, creating never ending powerpoint presentations, presenting genius yet mission critical, business winning strategy documents that are halted upon my introductory jokes by senior leaders who fail to “get me “. Salt all over my car. Rocks in my shoe. Jock itch powder in my shorts. Bad cafeteria food that takes days to pass. Not to mention my hardships on the home front. A nagging wife. Can’t I just watch the freaking game without being asked to empty the G-D laundry machine or take out the trash. An ungrateful child who only shows affection when I take her to the mall or the movies. A dog who shows me love only when I give him the pepperoni off of my cold Dominos Pizza. Smart sports gambling bets that are labeled “irresponsible,” high strip club cover with a two drink minimum that could bankrupt Gates, or the fact that I can’t override the porn filter that was placed, unbeknownst to me, on my home PC and only lets me surf “safe for work” websites. Hang in there.


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