Tuesday 27 FEB 2018 – Outside of No Name Harbor, Biscayne Bay, FL
A little after midnight Glenn and I both cannot sleep. For me it’s common on the night before a crossing (and all nights), but Glenn is always a solid sleeper. Tonight though, he tosses for hours and I can sense he’s trying to force the gods of slumber to visit him. Should I tell him it’s pointless? Eventually, he reaches around for his phone and studies it for a good, long while. Then he props himself up on his elbows, looks at me, looks back at his phone, and then, “Can we talk about something?” he asks.
I gaze back. Uh, something. Can we talk about Something? What could this be about? What did I do? What did he do? I don’t think I’ve ever heard Glenn utter this phrase, in this tone. Not to make too big a deal of it, but I twitch with a tiny pang of worry, bracing myself for what is coming. Even in the moment I know I’m being too dramatic. Maybe it’s the middle of the night aspect, but he is being so serious.
“I don’t think we should cross to The Bahamas later today.”
What? Huh? I’m trying to quickly realign my thoughts with his. This is about the crossing. “Oh, okay,” I say. “That’s just fine. We have to go with your best assessment of the situation.” Did this guy actually think I would be mad about this? What’s with the solemnity, dude?
Glenn launches into how he arrived at this decision over the course of some hours and multiple consternations with his weather oracles. He tells me all about his logics and calculations as I am preoccupied with my relief that he doesn’t have an animated porn addiction. Then it strikes me anew, this stuff is deadly serious for Glenn. He’s mentioned it before, the stress he has from making decisions that could end up putting us all – himself, but also two whole other people, one being his kid – in danger. I have it too with regard to Ava. I have played out scenarios in my head where things go wrong and the subsequent responsibility I would have to take for having put her in this situation. But Glenn, because he’s the one who makes all of the final decisions – when we leave, our route, our destination, our aggressiveness (or not) – bears the weight of his studied judgements.
And there are many things that can go wrong. Some of these are obvious like physical of mechanical failures resulting from negligence or mistake. These, in my opinion, are less likely to happen because Glenn is so fastidious with his maintenance regime, and too, these are unlikely to be catastrophic because this boat is so robust. But, of course, these aren’t the only things that can go wrong. Lately we’ve encountered moments of inconsistency in the weather reporting coming from the best sources we have. Most days the forecasting is uncannily accurate. But then, every once in a while, there will be an anomaly, a wrong intensity/direction of the wind or a faster shift, especially when zooming in tightly on a course of travel, that reminds us that weather forecasting, no matter how advanced it has become, is always imperfect. This last bit of uncertainty burdens Glenn, but I rarely see it because he carries it for me. What I see are easy passages, good equipment performance, and many miles traversed. Why is it, then, that I’m the one who can’t sleep?
Because we have packed up the dingy yesterday in preparation for a departure but now have decided to stay for a few more days, we have no way to get to shore. So, we motor the boat to the No Name harbor dock and tie up for the day. This way we can walk on and off the boat. The only caveat is that at night we have to go back to an outside anchorage because overnight tie-ups are not permitted.
Today Glenn and I walk to the Winn Dixie in town via the beach. Ava stays behind to hang out in the bathroom do schoolwork. We find that if we access the beach in Baggs Park, we can walk the entire length of Key Biscayne’s shore without having to find secret access points. We walk further than we need to, take a swim, and then go into town to get some steak to grill for dinner, since Baggs Park offers barbeques.
Wednesday 28 FEB 2018 – Outside of No Name Harbor, Biscayne Bay, FL
Happy birthday Mom and Leslie. I hope you both get the pleasures of a special day.
Otherwise, today is a Groundhog Day for us. That is, this day is a complete duplicate of yesterday. Has this ever happened to you? One day lived exactly like another? In my work/life I don’t typically have this experience, so when it happens I notice. Anyway, everything was exactly the same as yesterday, dock tie up, beach walk, swim, grocery store, without the midnight drama and we had salmon on the grill instead.
Thursday – Friday 01 – 02 MAR 2018 – Crossing to Great Harbour Cay, The Bahamas
At 11Am in the far away is the mass of Miami. At eighteen miles from land very few buildings remain visible as tiny gleaming baby teeth while the rest of the city completely disappears into a blue-gray background. We are the furthest we’ve been from Florida now in more than two and a half months, cut loose, moving toward an empty horizon. Free again.
Ahead is characterized by the promise of less, less news, less contact, less noise, less stuff, less America. Right here is characterized by the water and yet another version of blue. This one is so very blue, the kind of blue one imagines accompanies the definition of blue in the dictionary. A crayon blue, almost Aegean but slightly lighter, with none of the greens of coastal versions. There is no more turquoise, but it’s not IKB either. More true blue than bluesy.
The seas are easy today, we just have to watch our trajectory. The wind and the current are cajoling us gently northward, so we whisper little white southerly lies to Netzah to keep her eastward heading.
The sun is winter strong, not to the point of massacre but still powerful. Because of my allergy I avoid it as much as possible. I press myself into the shape of the odd shadows I find in the cockpit. Imagine a human body contorted into a collage of dodger, boom, and tiller fragments, like the flagpole-shaped people of Mexico City’s Zócalo, most of my body mass balled forward with one leg splayed out under the shade of the boom. Glenn who is fairer than me (in so many ways) suffers less in the sun. He can withstand this pummeling for many more hours. He is our sun soldier. Because of this though when he turns his back I check his skin, secretly, so as to not disturb his warrior composure.
The sun is creeping in on me now, burning the back of my neck, breathing down. Its heat or this writing is making me nauseous.
At twenty-three miles away there are blips of land that still seem visible but only because we know where to look, more imagined than real to the eye. If we were arriving from the other direction, we wouldn’t see a thing.
At forty-three miles away and eight miles to Bimini, Glenn’s phone signals our arrival. We may be in the The Bahamas, but we are also still in the Gulf Stream, two places at once. We have made good time, we assess, though we have run the motor much of the time because the wind has been blowing too much from ahead.
Around 5PM we break loose of the Gulf Stream’s force field. We drive Netzah over top of North Rock, hang a slight right over its north face and enter the Banks. We are finally in a reaching wind that lets us turn off the engine. Our sails fill and we move at 5kts.
The color of the water changes again. A thimble of yellow has been dropped in. The depth isn’t lessened, but the hue now is less pure, with the least amount of green placed in the mix. I’ve seen this color, or sort of this color, being labeled “French blue” in my box of Prismacolors. To call this color beautiful doesn’t explain its hold over me. I try and capture for you. Using filters, I adjust my camera to get the hue and value right. I compare the image on the screen to the sight before me. The filter that comes closest is called “Fantasy.” It’s not quite right. Not quite a fantasy. To really hold on to it, I stare, with as few blinks as possible, until I memorize the color.
I’m asleep by 8PM, getting ready for my 11PM watch shift. Our shifts are now 3½ hours to aim for 3 hours of actual sleep. By the time I wake up and get my turn, the boat is moving well. Glenn gives me a warning that there may be a change in wind direction soon and heads to bed. The sail tonight, motorless, under a full moon is sublime. Netzah is running fast on the smooth glow. All other boats are far off. It’s just the two of us having a quiet waltz together. As predicted, in about an hour our speed slows. The head sail slackens, blanketed by the main. The wind is more from behind now. I bring the jib to the other side until it hits the pole. I push the main perpendicular to the wind. We are in wing-on-wing. There’s nothing that feels better when sailing a boat than a confident surge in speed. This “snap” to acceleration, even more pronounced in windsurfing when one gets harnessed, is the moment the boat becomes one with the wind going as fast as possible on a given angle. Tonight I feel the click as we surge forward 6.5, 7, 7.2, 6.8 kts. We fly, Netzah and I for the next two bright hours.
By 8AM we are in Great Harbour Cay, moving through a very narrow cut in a tall striated rock. We arrive to a protected bay and catch a bit of sleep.
By 1PM we are in the marina next to our bay. The charges here are $2/foot per day.
By 8PM I am in a shower, my first in nineteen days. It’s otherworldly. If there’s a reason to not shower for three weeks it is to experience this sensation.
Saturday 03 MAR 2018 – Great Harbour Cay Marina, The Bahamas
The three of us explore the island today. Great Harbour Cay is a small, sleepy kind of place. Using a very bad copy of a very bad map, we make it to an expansive crescent beach on the east side of the island. Here the sand is hard talc and the sea is an electric, eye-piercing turquoise. If you only saw a picture of this place you would imagine total tranquility. Being here is another story. It’s wild, with a whipping wind and cold waters. Ah, the ocean is still the ocean, I think to myself, no matter how pretty she looks.
We walk a lot today. Once back on the roads after a bit of disorientation, we get a dose of help from the lovely Wally aka “Sunny Day” who, in the nick of time, points us back to the marina. He gives us directions very carefully. “Okay now, tell me how you’re going to go,” he tests whether we were listening then points to the sky. “I’ll be watching to see if you make it!” he yells as we head off. I turn back and give him a wink and a wave.
So are the people here friendly? Mostly, and the ones who are, really are. But, like in all places that have been forced to feel the heavy baggage that accompanies the tourist’s dollar, there are also some who are, mostly young, mostly rightly, uninterested in our presence.
Sunday 04 MAR 2018 – Great Harbour Cay Marina, The Bahamas
Last night I went to a nightclub in town. I went by myself, or rather, I went with a friend, but I don’t know which friend it was, just that she, it was a she, was a presence on my left side throughout the night. The club was small and very dark, lit only with some dim red lights. In the room of the club there were between several and many tiny round tables, the kinds made for couples only, aimed in the direction of a miniature stage lit for a show. We, the friend and I, were seated in the middle, well camouflaged amongst similar shadow pairs. It was an open mic night. By the time the first performer arrived in the stage light we had each had a drink or two, I assume. And then it started. The first guy was a good-looking middle aged man. He had short, strawberry blond hair and a big red beard, probably with some white in it. He was tall and slim, and if I saw him on the street, say, one hundred feet away, I would think it might be Glenn. “Hmmm, he’s attractive,” I said to my friend maybe out loud, maybe telepathically. I knew she thought I thought this because of his Glennsemblance, which I did. Perhaps he sang, some of them did, or told jokes. I don’t know. I can’t remember. I was only paying attention to my inner ramblings. Too soon I was looking at the next performer. This one, like the last one, was also tall, but slimmer than the first with a shorter, pointier red beard, and a red flannel shirt. This one did magic tricks, I think. I zeroed in on his beard. I liked him. So did the friend, I could tell. The next Glenn was yet another variation, but more toward blonde with a longer haircut and possibly a ventriloquist’s act that seemed to make the room laugh. Etc., etc. This went on. At one point I looked to the area in front of the stage where the remaining performers were waiting. All of them were Glenns, not identicals, not clones, just variations of red hair, beards, tallness, slimness. A show made for me, I thought. Instinctively, I was drawn to each of them. I could be with each of them, I could tell, the way I could tell that about Glenn before I even met him. And I liked each Glenn too, but for their individualities, not just because they were Glenns.
In the late morning after not much of anything, Glenn and I walk into “town,” a different area of the island from yesterday’s beach tour, while Ava stays to catch up on school. We find, strung along the main road, some small stores, a bar, a police station, a school, and the largest concentration of houses on the island, which numbers maybe to one hundred houses or so. We find small town Sunday life in process. There’s a church service ending, some men lifting a boat out of a bay using a small crane, some dudes in the town bar, crowing roosters, and “Fettuccini,” the friendly car wash guy hanging out in front of his house.
Monday 05 MAR 2018 – Great Harbour Cay Marina, The Bahamas
A very yappy dog lives in the apartments directly across the bay in back of our slip. I can’t see her, but I picture her to be one of the diminutive breeds, female (of course!), and white. She barks in long, annoying spurts in a high-pitched jackhammer-style yammer whenever she’s awake, which fortunately has many respites. Glenn has taken to calling her “Lil’ Anca” and periodically engages her in quippy conversation. When she gets riled up he waits for a pause and then says something like, “Hey Lil’ Anca, what’s the matter now, girl?” or “What’s that you say, Lil’ Anca?” As if on cue, she barksponds. Then Glenn, “Oh no, you don’t say!” or some other generic retort, the kind of which Glenn never uses in real life. I’m pretty sure I should be offended by this little act, but every time he starts his conversations I just crack up which just makes him do it more.