“The sea always filled her with longing, though for what she was never sure.”
Cornelia Funke, Inkheart
I have some friends who get to hang out on a multi-million dollar yacht for a living. Wait, let me clarify “hang out” for you…. My friends Andrew and Karen have the job that most people would die for – they work/live on a 110′ motor yacht and sail up & down the East coast of the US, and throughout the Bahamas and Caribbean. Nice gig, eh? Andrew is the Captain and his wife Karen is the 1st Mate/Stewardess, and together they have years and years of experience doing this, separately and for about 10 years now, together. In fact, they met on a boat.
I rented a house in Ft Lauderdale from them years ago, and had lost touch, but re-connected a few years back. Flash forward to Dec. 2010, and they needed some updated interior cabin shots done. After the shoot, we headed out to lunch to catch up and talk about their next destination – St Thomas, USVI for the winter. I think I saw a light bulb go off over their heads when they asked what I was doing later on that week – and would I like to do the delivery with them. Wait, let me think about this….. YES!!! This was Tuesday. Friday morning at 7am, I was on the dock with my duffel and a smile!
We headed out with smiles for what was to be a delivery that would take 5 days, of course depending on weather… My “job” on the delivery trip was to do watches with Karen from 6a-10a and then again 6p-10p. Other than that, I spent most of my days at sea lounging in the salon (living room for you non-boaters) reading, watching movies in the crew quarters and up on the fly bridge listening to music. The weather heading out of Ft Lauderdale was beautiful and the seas pretty calm at 1-3′ swells…occasionally a little more. We made it into Nassau and docked over by Paradise Island for the night. This was truly my first experience as a “boat person”, as we headed onto land for some adult beverages.
The next morning bright and early started the next leg… Our intended destination was Turks & Caicos. Well, that didn’t happen.
We motored along for a majority of the day in growing seas as darkened storm clouds were sneaking up behind us. When we started out, the swell was still in the 1-3′ to 2-4′ range. Over the course of several hours, they had quickly kicked up to a solid 2-4′, then easily 6-8’+! Add some nice 2-4′ waves on top of that and you are definitely rocking and rolling. We had just been brought lunch up by the chef and had a few bites in when an alarm started going off in the engine room. NOT the sound you want to hear on a boat out in the middle of the ocean. Turns out it was a generator. No big deal, you just have to restart it and we’re good to go. Well, After you shut the boat down and wait for what seemed like the longest 30-45 seconds of my life. In shutting the boat down, the swell and waves turned us not to kindly into the oncoming swell so we got hit a few times starboard (right side, again for you non-boaters). Then the chef yells “STARBOARD WAVE!” and BOOM. We got hit hard. Enough to lean us pretty significantly port and anything that was not attached went flying! I’ll save you anymore dramatics, as the boat powered up and after a “holy s&$t” moment, we were on our way again. Captain Andrew decided we (crew and boat) had enough of a beating and that it was time to head into safer waters/port.
We continued to head along The Exumas which are an archipelago of over 360 cays and islands. (They begin just 35 miles southeast of Nassau).
This was some of the most beautiful aquamarine and sapphire water I had ever seen. We ended up in a place called Sampson Cay and decided to “wait out” the Christmas Winds. We docked late Saturday afternoon. We didn’t leave until Wednesday.
Most people have dreamed or imagined being “stuck” on a tropical island…deserted beaches surrounded by every shade of blue water you could imagine. Well, my dream was now a reality and I was going to embrace every second of it! Right down to being chased by nurse sharks on a paddleboard! Sampson Cay is a 31 acre island that lies 240 miles from Ft Lauderdale and 75 nautical miles southeast of Nassau.
I explored that island several times over those few days. What a beautiful place and I suggest you pop over there if you happen to be in the area (Staniel Cay is really close!)
We headed out that Wednesday and bid farewell to my little island. We spent the next few days on the water only stopping in the Dominican Republic for fuel and water. Captain Andrew had made a decision in the middle of the night to bypass the Turks & Caicos as there was a window in the weather that would allow us to make up some lost time at sea. So we went for it!
We motored right past Haiti and as I mentioned, stopped in DR, then got back underway and continued along the incredibly long coastline, then on past Puerto Rico until St Thomas was on the horizon. This was over the course of 36+ hours. That dock in St Thomas was a welcome sight!
After we got Banyan all tied up at the dock, we headed out for a nice crew dinner on St Thomas followed by drinks and dancing at a locals spot with other boaters. Not a bad way to spend Christmas Eve!!! Oh, and while we were enjoying our nice crew dinner ON land, the table started to shake. A 5.1 earthquake that we felt from 80 miles away!
Christmas morning came and although I was supposed to be home celebrating with family and friends, this was definitely a unique experience! Glad I could share it with Andrew & Karen! After a nice “breakfast” of Roti and Bloody Marys, we explored a bit of Charlotte Amalie before I had to catch a flight home! (BTW – if you’re ever in St Thomas, find Gladys’ – not only is she a wonderful woman, they make a damn good Bloody Mary and Roti!)
Wait – did I hear you correctly??? I get to add as much rum into my drink as I like? Why thank you!
We had arrived in St Thomas, USVI on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24th 2010 after leaving Ft Lauderdale, FL on Fri Dec 17th. It was an incredible week-long journey that I will always remember. This journey sparked another part of my desire and travel which I am now pursuing, by combining my photography with boating – and I already have some great opportunities on the (very near) horizon!
I’ll repeat the quote from the beginning of this post – “The sea always filled her with longing, though for what she was never sure.”
After growing up near the sea for the better part of 41 years, I now know why I’ve always been drawn to it.
Til next time –
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