39. Berry Islands, The Bahamas

Tuesday 06 MAR 2018 – Great Harbour Cay Marina, The Bahamas

Tonight Glenn and I have a difficult argument, the edges of which are very hard to define. I’m not sure what either of us wants now, or anymore. We talk about the next legs of the trip and the upcoming weather, but it’s messy and I lose interest along the way. Why do I drift? I ask myself this question in faculty meetings too. Sometimes I just stop caring. When was the moment I forked onto my own inward road? Was it when my interests no longer seemed a part of it? What are my interests anyway? I want to be someplace else. When I say this out loud though I am ashamed, it’s just that sometimes I lose the meaning of here, especially when I think of the future. Tonight, I turn my fear against Glenn. I blame the trip for my standing in the way of my goals, and more, for obfuscating them. As if they were once clear. I blame the food I’m eating, the sleep I’m not getting, the places I’m not going and the basic lack of plan, which I claim I would have had, had I been in charge, even though I am in charge.

There are no good reasons for taking a trip like this. There is no outcome on which I can count. There is no encounter, regardless of scale, that can render this whole thing meaningful. There is only, for the time being, the experience. I have to find a way to absorb the open-ended and to merely be. Will I learn something? Will I be able to use anything from this experience? Will I be changed? Into a better version? Can I benefit? Can my kid? Can my community that sent me? Will I squander this opportunity? Will I have nothing to show?

The anxieties surrounding the “getting something out of this” get to me tonight. It’s not the first time. I usually talk myself down, and I do tonight too, by buying time. I tell myself I need more time to absorb and digest. This part is true and rational, so I can grab on to it. The other part, the part that happens after that time has passed is the uncertainty that I have to manage. Tonight I haven’t managed it well.

 

Wednesday 07 MAR 2018 – Great Harbour Cay Marina, The Bahamas

Glenn makes the morning coffee as usual. He offers me some. I decline and stay in bed to let last night’s hard feelings fade away, but secretly I appreciate the gesture. Before long, before I’m even on my feet, Glenn leaves. The mailboat with the weekly grocery delivery will arrive in Bullock’s Harbour this morning and Glenn goes to buy produce. In town he is in line first and texts me as the food delivery truck arrives. By the time I get there he’s already bought our lot, so all I can do is help him carry it. We are silent as we walk up and down the hilly road sweating back to the marina. And then, sunny day! I mean, Sunny Day drives by in his pick-up truck and offers us a ride. Yes, Please! We load our bags and ourselves into the cab and start to move… I think. Sunny Day drives slower than an elderly turtle. I don’t mind though, I’m hungry for a chat. Sunny D. is in his late sixties, but looks quite a lot younger. He moved to the island at twenty-two, got married at twenty-eight, and now has three sons from 37 to 39 years old. He works around the island for many folks on their land and their homes. He is a black man working for wealthy white vacationers mostly, but this has not embittered him. He tells us about himself easily.  He tells us about the history of the Berry Islands’ volatile tourist economy since the seventies – the failing yacht club, the revival of the marina, the new cruise ship business at the end of the island chain that is now employing 80% of the residents. It’s a sweet relief to be talking to him, just to be having a conversation. It gets me and Glenn talking again too, albeit through a third party. By the time he drops us off, Sunny Day is on to the subject of god. When the economy failed, he said, the government wouldn’t or, more likely couldn’t, do anything to help the people. All they had was god, he said. I understand this kind of faith. Its pragmatisms are logical to me, if not rational. I nod a lot, in sympathy more than agreement. We get out of the cab standing by the open window listening a while longer before thanking him for the help and waving goodbye as he, again, points upward. Good bye Sunny Day, I hope we see you again tomorrow.

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Sometime in the late morning the itching begins. Ava gets hit first and hardest, then me, then Glenn. It’s on our feet and shins, the red burning lumps. Did we pass through a poison weed I wonder? I thought I heard someone talking about this on the dock. But the itching has come on so suddenly, could it be a virus, a pox? No, I think these are insect related, smaller than mosquito bites, irregular in pattern and only on our legs. Noseums? Bed bugs? I check around the boat. Nothing. We think we are the victims of sand fleas (thanks, Google). Yesterday we rode the marina bikes to the crescent beach where we spent a couple of hours with our feet and legs unwittingly part of a sandy food chain while building a sandy kingdom. At the time we didn’t feel anything though we did notice some tiny jumping critters. Could this have been them? I stake the claim that our sandchitecture was worth it, Ava disagrees.

 

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(Cheery aside: The sand on the Berry Island beaches is, hands down, the best for making castles I have ever encountered. I mean, in the world, people. I count myself an expert amateur beach builder with like 48 years of experience. I was astounded by the strength and compaction of the sand here. In particular, contrary to what you might be imagining, it was the ability to carve miniature details that most impressed me. Sandchitects, get thyself to this beach. Oh, but spray some bug stuff on yourself first.)

 

Thursday 08 MAR 2018 – Great Harbour Cay Marina, The Bahamas

This morning I get a little nostalgic when hanging laundry to dry. Pinning each piece clothing onto our boat’s lifelines, which double perfectly as clotheslines, I run through incarnations of this activity from my life long ago. I’m old enough and from a part of the world where drying clothes on a line was a regular household routine. No dryers back then, or now come to think of it. In childhood my Romanian grandmothers each had urban balconies where permanent clothes hanging lines stretched from one end to the other in double and triple rows. Every balcony had this and everybody had a balcony. When laundry was drying the balcony wasn’t a balcony. For a kid this didn’t matter, the only difference was the smell. On laundry days the chemical-clean smell of the laundry powder out-muscled the usual wafts of dense city living, of car exhaust, of cooking foods, mysterious sewer-y odors, and… dust. In Bucharest dust dominated. It was everywhere. I’m sure you could smell it. All of the city’s surfaces, the streets, the parks, the buildings, inside and out, were perpetually under a fine layer of an ancient gray residue, the combination of the industrial debris of the corrupt communist regime and the powdery remains of its long gone conquered regimes. (Did I hear correctly that a large part of dust is human skin?) In Romania it was an official municipal chore to sweep away the daily coating. City employed worker women in bright blue smocks, mid-shin socks, and head kerchiefs punctuated the streets with billowy brown clouds kicked up by their stroking brooms. Everywhere downtown, dirty veil clouds rose from the sweeping, sweeping, sweeping. The blue smocks moved the stuff from sidewalks to streets to sewers only to find it back the next day, the next week, the next year, for more clearing.

Even from my child’s perspective, these street sweeping jobs had no appeal. I could tell that, regardless of the rhetoric of communistic egalitarianism, there was a vicious class system in place that had put this job, these people, near the very bottom. I could tell from the ways which my grandmother, and everybody else really, would not greet or look at them. I could tell by the tattered pieces of their own clothing that stuck out around their smocks. And I could tell from the way that the sweepers themselves had incorporated the social position to move invisibly while the rest of us were visible. Only children saw these ghosts.

One time, a bit later in life, I kind of fell in love with a street sweeper. I was in the throes of puberty, hanging out on summer days in Philadelphia. While my mom worked, I would peruse the streets mostly in observational mode, and then come home with her at 5PM when she got off work. My days consisted of walking, reading, and, talking to absolutely no one unless it was to fend off unwanted attention. One day, in the shadow of Oldenburg‘s famous Kiss sculpture, I saw this rangy, young guy sweeping the sidewalk. He was much younger than the other city sweepers and, though I had been conditioned to not see him, my hormones, ahem, did. My social confidence, having not caught up with my physical ones, I never did anything more than watch him sweep from afar. One day, I noticed that he noticed me too. I wasn’t hiding my interest. From then on, we watched each other, glancing up and then away quickly, but not too quickly. Without a word between us my fantasies grew like wild bacteria on a wet sponge in a PetrI dish. And then one day he stopped showing up. Maybe he quit so we could be together, I thought waiting around in my usual spots for a few days. But nope. It was not to be. Heartbroken, I stopped wanting to come in to the city with my mom and maybe too, stopped looking at street sweepers.

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Our place in the marina. Lil’ Anca lives back there.

Pizza night at the marina. We order a sausage and pepper pie. At $25 it’s a bit expensive for what we get, but at least we get home delivery and it’s tasty! We share a bit of it with Izzy and Jeff from the trawler called Izzy R. They invite us over to have our pizzas together, but unfortunately theirs never gets delivered. We discover this after the three of us have gobbled most of our pizza down. We would have shared more! The night is fun anyway. I was nervous when it started with some questions about shootings in schools, given the recent news. As teachers ourselves, are we ever afraid on campus, Jeff asked? Yes, actually. I feel unprepared and unprotected in many ways. Would we ever agree to carry guns to school? No fucking way. I will never own or carry a gun anywhere. And I will never send my kid to a school where the teachers are armed. Period. We talk about it for a bit more and find ourselves in agreement on the nonsensical notion that more arms is a solution to our national gun crisis. Whew.

 

Friday 09 MAR 2018 – anchored near Penton Cove, Great Stirrup Cay, north Berry Islands, The Bahamas

We’ve been at the Great Harbour Cay Marina too long. So has everybody else. Today there is a mass exodus due to a good little weather window that should last until Monday morning when another hefty low will roll in. We are one of the last boats out, not out of laziness, but because we aren’t going very far. We glide out of the island’s narrow cut, turn right and head north around the top of the Berry Island chain. Most of the other boats have gone south to the Exumas. We will take more time to get there, that is our destination eventually too.

As to plan, we motor easily into the wind. As we are rounding to get to the northern edge of Great Stirrup Cay we encounter the very large Norwegian Cruise Line ship called Epic anchored fairly close to land. From here they shuttle guests back and forth to various activities and beaches during their multi-day stay. And it is Epic. The boat small city is massive. It holds 4100 passengers and 1750 crew members. This kind of density usually means resource efficiency, but I’m sure if I were to compare consumption rates, our boat would win. This is because we don’t allow ourselves to consume as if we were on land, whereas the cruise ship passengers expect that kind of feast. They’re on a luxurious vacation, after all. I hear that cruise lines are trying to improve their consumption/pollution footprints. That’s good! One shower every nineteen days for all, I say.GSCI_epic BLOG

 

 

Saturday 10 MAR 2018 – anchored near Northeast tip, Lignumvitae Cay, north Berry Islands, The Bahamas

This morning I am reading something on my phone sitting at my spot on the setee. My legs are facing out, not under the table like for eating, when Glenn comes directly in front of me, stops, puts his hands on my face, and leans down for a fast kiss on my lips and then pulls back slowly looking me directly in the eyes. We kiss a lot, but this one is especially sweet. “Ewwwwwww,” screeches Ava, but I can tell she’s faking it.
Around noon we move to an anchorage that has protection from the southerly and easterly winds headed our way. Our first drop drags, so we reset and from then hold well.

Then I convince Ava to pose for a photoshoot:

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which she thinks are culture appropriation – which culture she doesn’t know. She just wants it known that she doesn’t agree with these pictures of her draped in my towels.

 

Monday 12 MAR 2018 –  anchored near Northeast tip, Lignumvitae Cay, north Berry Islands, The Bahamas

Around 4AM a bright light flashes multiple times outside. It comes through our portholes and skylight lighting up the interior of the cabin. The searing brightness wakes me up. I first “see” it through my closed eyelids. Then it happens again. I creep my eyes open. Flash, Flash. Shit. Lightning. It’s completely silent, but the flashes are white hot brightness that hurt my eyes with every flare. I hear thunder now very far away like a hungry ogre’s stomach. Storm. The lightning feels like it’s right on top of us. No rain yet, but it’s coming.

It’s always somewhat disconcerting to be floating on a body of water with a giant lightning rod mast attached to our metal box house. The first time we saw bolts of lightning striking in the waters somewhat close (meaning a couple of miles away) was in the Bahamas two years ago on our first sail north. The terror of that moment pales now. I have become much less afraid, having read about (and experienced) lightning more. In general, we get inside and make sure to not be touching anything conductive that is attached to our hull or mast. It’s possible to get hit, many boats do, but as we are not dependent on electronics for movement, we feel fairly secure that even if we lost our systems, we could continue moving. Now Glenn if would really get going on his sextant knowledge, we would be even more confident.

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P.S. I added new pics to last week’s post! Go back in time to see them.

7 thoughts on “39. Berry Islands, The Bahamas

  1. Loved, loved, loved the photoshoot of Ava! Also that wonderful father/daughter shot. You really need to put all your photos on line so we grandparents can download copies. I’m sure Mike and Ileana would agree. Love and hugs to all of you. 😻❣️❣️❣️

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  2. Beautiful pics and words as always! I love your candid introspection. Here’s — perhaps — what you are getting out of this: A lifetime of durable memories, close to the ones you love, in places many of us merely dream of going/doing. And — perhaps — this can only be appreciated from a distance: measured in miles by your grateful readers, and in future years by you. I often ask myself similar questions; What is a life well lived? What should I do with my time now so I have only fond memories and warm satisfaction — no regrets — in my last days?

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    1. Hi Carl,
      What a lovely comment. I like the idea of a durable memory, one that outlasts (or out-powers?) lesser ones. I am sure that I am making durable memories and hopeful they, more than many others, will be satisfying in the long term. This week though I have been terribly anxious about how all of this would matter professionally. I don’t mean directly, but more about how I might make a pivot in my career that benefits from all of this – particularly the (type of) writing that I am finding so satisfying these days. Can I find a way to do this, and be this, in my next work projects? I think so, but until I do I will dangle…

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  3. I appreciate your honesty, your doubts, your questions – they raise all those same issues for me. I think that is part of the appeal of reading week after week. I suspect everyone harbors thoughts of putting parts of their life on hold and just taking off on an adventure. The fantasy and the reality collide and sometimes the sweeper just doesn’t show up.

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    1. I think the doubts make the trip better. It’s why I include them. I mean, the doubts also make the trip harder, but we undertook this kind of adventure because we thought that we would, at times, struggle. And in turn, we thought that the struggle would yield, at minimum, a form of satisfaction that can only come of hardships and perseverance. Living through it now I don’t want to gloss over the bits that set me back, but I never know what they will be or when they will come. In other words, sometimes I’m glad the sweeper doesn’t show up.

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  4. Ava’s photos are fantastic, the best to date. Linda is correct we want all of them, and weighting to see them all and all of you in May.
    Lots of love and kisses from Mike and me.

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