Dream Big

 

Leeward Yacht Club
Green Turtle Cay
Abaco, Bahamas

 

I love it when a plan comes together.  For years, Cindy and I have dreamed about buying a cruising boat and taking off for the islands.  At first it seemed like an impossible dream — an irresponsible fantasy.  Responsible adults don’t do these things!  But soon the conversation changed from “Can we do this?” to HOW can we do this?”

How could we afford to do this?  What about the business?  We couldn’t really just take off for 7 or 8 months and go sailing, could we?  Would the house be ok?  Will the kids be ok?  What about the cat?   Ok… I honestly didn’t think too much about the cat.

After the long trip down the coast from New York, we felt pretty good about being in Florida.  It was nice to just be somewhere warm and to stay put for a while.  I was feeling accomplished and had said to Cindy that even if our cruise ended right there in Stuart, FL and we sailed home in the spring, I would be happy.  I meant that when I said it but I knew the plan was to get to the Bahamas.  Even after all these months on board and all these miles sailed, I often found myself suffering from a sort of impostor syndrome…  I didn’t really think of us as “real cruisers.”  We were just “faking it until we make it.” I thought…  I was reasonably competent as a skipper but I didn’t really think of myself as being particularly salty or capable.

Trying to leave Stuart was a comedy of errors.  There were all sorts of administrative hoops to jump through to get Willow’s paperwork in order.  We had our car and had to get it up to Vero where it would stay with my sister.  There was the normal pre-cruise provisioning and boat preparations…  Cindy’s passport was due to arrive on 2-14.  We wanted to leave on 2-15 so it was a real nail biter hoping that everything would work out and that the passport would arrive in time.  A few days before departure Cindy and I were relaxing on the bow when my phone slipped out of my hands and went BLOOP.  Right overboard!   Our diver, Shane retrieved it for me the next day and cleaned Mavis’ bottom for us but after having spent 24 hours submerged, the phone was toast.  So I ordered a replacement phone which was supposed to arrive on the 14th or 15th.  When it didn’t arrive on the 14th I figured we would just wait for it on the 15th…  Unfortunately, Fedex had some weather issues so it was delivered today, 2-18 in Stuart, FL… But we are now in Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas…  So I’m using an ancient toy phone until I can figure out how to get my new device over here.  From what I understand, the easiest way to do this is to have someone fly it over into Treasure Cay airport and take the BOLO Ferry to the island…  Any volunteers?

As if all this wasn’t enough… The night before we were supposed to leave Stuart, as we left the dinghy dock to head back to Mavis who was now on a mooring ball, I bounced the boat off the dock and immediately heard a hissing sound…  Our dinghy was leaking air.

This inflatable dinghy is about 10 years old and I’m actually surprised it hadn’t failed yet but to fail just as we were supposed to be leaving for the Bahamas really got me crazy.  We had dropped our car off at my sister’s house for safekeeping until we returned to the USA so we had no car.  We were sitting in a sinking dinghy with the dog.   I was starving.  It was dark and our floating home was waaaaay out in the mooring field.  It was Valentine’s Day.  We were supposed to have a nice steak dinner on board and leave for the Bahamas in the morning.  I didn’t want to miss our weather window because we didn’t know when our next opportunity to cross the gulf stream would appear.

I frantically started calling the local West Marine in Stuart.   I mean frantically.  It was about 6:30 and the store closes at 8.  They had no dinghies in stock but they offered to order one.  That didn’t work because I was going to the Bahamas in the morning!  I could go without a phone but over here a dinghy is pretty important.  I asked if I could purchase a floor model but was told no.   Finally I called the Jensen Beach West Marine who were happy to sell me their floor model…  We ubered over to the store, lugged the dinghy to the dock and inflated it…  I transferred our outboard motor from the old dinghy and we were back in business by 10pm.  We haven’t registered it but the Bahamas doesn’t seem to care about U.S. registrations for tenders.  We’ll deal with registration numbers when we get back.  So at least it failed in Stuart and not out on some remote island…  One less thing to worry about but this trip is getting expensive.

So after all of this craziness I was so happy to be underway again.  I get stressed out before any major voyages.  I suppose it’s anxiety because as soon as we get going I feel great again.   About an hour and a half after leaving Sunset Bay, we were exiting the Saint Lucie Inlet and turning right to follow the coast of Florida down to Delray Beach which I had calculated as the right place to begin heading east across the gulf stream.

Remember that impostor syndrome thing?   That all went away the other morning.  I have a hard time finding the words to properly express just how I felt as we made landfall in West End, Grand Bahama.  It was surreal and incredible and emotional.  I was exhausted and exhilarated and proud and happy and excited all at once.  Just as I had planned, the sun began to rise and Grand Bahama appeared right where it was supposed to be.  Maybe we aren’t impostors after all?  Maybe we actually know what we are doing?

Flying the quarantine flag as we make landfall in the Bahamas at dawn

I felt myself getting a little choked up as we entered the marina and tied Mavis up to the customs dock.  Just like that, in that moment, as I cleated the line off…  after years of dreaming, a solid year of planning and then 5 months on board, all of this became incredibly real.   We were actually in the Bahamas.

If you get nothing more from reading these words, it is my hope that you’ll realize that anything you can dream you can do. 

If you get nothing more from reading these words, it is my hope that you’ll realize that anything you can dream you can do.  It doesn’t matter if your dreams seem impossible.  Just want it bad enough and be prepared to do whatever it takes to make it happen.  It doesn’t hurt to have the right partner by your side.  I’m very fortunate to have someone equally as passionate and just crazy enough to do these things with!

By the time we were tying up in West End, I had been awake a solid 24 hours but I was full of adrenaline and caffeine.  I left Cindy and Willow on the boat and proceeded to the customs office to check in, a binder full of paperwork in my arms.  Customs needs to see passports for everyone on board, Willow’s pet import permit, her health certificate, the boat’s coast guard documentation…   A few forms… ok lots of forms later and the customs officer started stamping passports and forms.  He took our $150 fee for Mavis’ cruising permit and with a warm smile he said “Welcome to the Bahamas.”

“Wow!” I thought.  “Did that guy really say that?”  I started feeling choked up again.  I left the customs office and happily made my way down the dock to Mavis where I found Cindy and Willow waiting on deck for me.  We took down our yellow quarantine flag and hoisted the Bahamian courtesy flag to the top of our starboard spreader.  Every time I have doubts about whether any of this is real I look at that flag…  And the same flags on all of the other cruising boats around us.  This is real.  We are in paradise.

Time to raise the Bahamian flag!

After topping up Mavis’ fuel tanks with Bahamian diesel which I was surprised to see was clear and not dyed red, we headed back out the inlet and around Indian Cay onto the Little Bahama Bank.  Heading out this inlet we were back out in the Atlantic Ocean and the waves were steep and about 5 feet.  We caught a few waves on the bow before turning right to go around Indian Cay.  The water on the bank like all the water in all of the Bahamas is crystal clear.  The bank is only 15 to 20 feet deep  and its sandy bottom is visible as you sail across the waters.   For miles and miles and miles, as far as the eye could see was crystal clear water.  It looked like the world’s largest swimming pool!  We saw only one other boat the whole day as we sailed east watching the bottom go by…  The water colors varied from a crazy surreal emerald green to turquoise to deep blue.

This guy swam along in our bow wake for a few minutes.

A solitary dolphin swam along our starboard side and made his way into our bow wake where he swam and looked at the strange people on the bow looking back at him and taking pictures.  He hung out with us for a few minutes and then darted off.  After motoring across the bank all day, we arrived at Great Sale Cay where we would drop our anchor for the night.  We  took Willow ashore on our new dinghy and for a few moments we found ourselves on our own island in the Bahamas.

After a much needed night of sleep on the anchor and another trip ashore for the dog, we hoisted the anchor and headed toward the Sea of Abaco.  My plan was to try to get to Spanish Cay but if things were looking good and we could make it by sundown, we wanted to get to Green Turtle Cay where our friends PJ and Jim from Hail Mary had set up camp a few weeks earlier.  After about two hours of motoring the winds picked up and we raised the sails and turned off the engine.

Epic sailing on the Sea of Abaco

This was by far the best sailing experience of my life.  The water was amazing…  But the sailing was pretty awesome too.  We had 15 to 20 knots on our beam which allowed Mavis to easily glide along at around 6 to 7 knots.  I had such a smile on my face that after the 50 something mile cruise my jaw hurt!  I’ll never forget that sail on the Sea of Abaco.

We arrived in Green Turtle Cay and were welcomed by our friends who helped us get tied up in the amazing slip we’re in.  We are so happy to be here on GTC at the Leeward Yacht Club.  We’ve booked this slip for the month, so this will be our base of operations for a while.  Here at the marina we have a really nice pool with a restaurant and bar.  We’ve been gorging on lobster bites and conch fritters.  We may be fat but we are tan!

There’s a nice little pool here at the Leeward Yacht Club

This morning, we took a walk into town to explore and were really happy with what we found.  We didn’t really know what to expect.  The settlement of New Plymouth here on the island is incredibly quaint.   Far from the glitzy casinos and mega-resorts of Nassau, this is the real Bahamas.  Chickens roam around this island everywhere.  In fact, Willow got a mouth full of feathers in a dramatic altercation with one of the buggers this morning.  After Cindy got a hold of Willow, the chicken got away unharmed but upset.

New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay is a quaint small town.

 

After returning to the marina we went for a swim in the pool before walking to the beach to meet our friends PJ and Jim and Betty and Bill, all of whom we met at Sunset Bay in Stuart.  The beach here is incredible.  I’ve been to a lot of beaches in a lot of places but this has to be the most fantastic stretch of sand I’ve ever seen.   Photos don’t do it justice.

Amazing beach on Green Turtle Cay

It’s really beautiful here.  We’re taking lots and lots of photos.  It’s crazy to think that someday this will all be a memory.  I don’t want to leave this place.

Sunrise from our slip at the Leeward Yacht Club, Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas!

Even though I could see myself staying here forever, I find myself simultaneously looking forward to enjoying a month or two here in the Bahamas and also looking forward to sailing home to the Great South Bay and Fire Island.  As awesome and amazing as this trip has been and I’m sure will continue to be, it will be nice to be home for a while.  I’ve given thought to leaving the boat here and flying home.  It would be pretty cool having Mavis down here in paradise waiting for us to come down.  Sort of like having a floating condo in the Bahamas…    Our insurance company would really hit us hard for leaving the boat in the hurricane belt over the summer and we REALLY need a boat at home.  We would be lost without her.  I’d also be super nervous about leaving her.  I’ve loved this boat since the moment we bought her but this trip and these miles we have shared have made her so much more than a boat and a home to me…  It’s hard to explain the relationship a captain has with his ship but trust me when I say it’s complicated.

That’s all for now.  Thanks for following along on this grand adventure of a lifetime.

Capt Frank
S/V Mavis

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