It’s a small boat, right? I mean, I know it depends on whether you’re getting tossed around in some gnarly sea conditions. Then 35-feet is quite a small boat, way too small. You’d much rather be on a 900-foot cargo ship then. On the other hand, when you’re docking in wind or current and you’re barreling toward a slip that looks like the mere eye of a needle that you’re expected to actually fit your boat into, she’s quite a big boat then, 35-feet is way too big to fit in that tiny slot without hitting every piling and other boat on the way in. But, there’s also another time the boat seems a bit too small: when you’re in an argument with your one other crew member.
I mentioned this moment in my Birthday Tribute: 37 reasons (to match my proud 37 years!) why this past voyage to the Bahamas was one of our best yet. It was the fight Phillip and I got into when we were navigating our way into Bimini. This was after a very (I hate to say it, but sometimes it just is – luck runs both ways) easy Gulf Stream crossing from Marathon, Phillip and I were making our way into the BIMINI entrance (as shown on the Explorer Charts – do not do the Bahamas without them) when things went sideways.
As I said before, nothing needs to be re-hashed, but it was one of the most heated moments Phillip and I have had on the boat. And, for us, those are exceedingly rare. Honestly, in the six years we’ve been sailing together, I can count the number of arguments Phillip and I have had, where we actually raised our voices on the boat, on one hand. And, that’s not meant to be boastful. I know many couples vary greatly from us and many have their own dynamic, their own way of communicating and showing their love and passion for one another, and for conveying their anger or disappointment. Many couples fight often (and often it’s lightheartedly although their words are still sharp). Spats are just a part of their discourse and that works for them. That does not work for Phillip and me.
All evidence to the contrary, I am exceedingly anti-confrontational. I get nervous and shaky at the thought of having to argue with someone I love, which often results in me doing a piss-poor job of standing up for myself and persuasively stating my position. I know what you’re probably thinking. But she was a lawyer. I said “with someone I love.” When it’s opposing counsel on the other side, just another lawyer just doing his job, too, then look the heck out. I’m a tiger. But, that’s worlds away from having an argument with Phillip. With Phillip, I turn into a sniffly puddle of goo when I have to confront him. But I’m proud to say I did not this time.
Bottom line was, I screwed up plotting the coordinates in real-time as we were coming in via the BIMINI waypoint on the Explorer Charts. By the time I realized my mistake, I had us closer to the breakers to the south of the entrance than either of us would have liked.
And, let’s see what you guys can make of this. In my state of confused worry and fear, trying to convey to Phillip that I might have had him holding too much a southern line as he was sailing toward the entrance I said:
“You’ve gone too far east. You need to go north.”
Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? What, really? That’s crazy talk??
Phillip’s face probably looked something like yours does now. “We’re going east,” he said deadpan. “East is the goal until we get into the channel.” Then I blundered and muttered and tried to show him coordinates on the chart while he’s trying to hand-steer under sail into the entrance, a very wise time to put charts in front of his face, don’t you think? Yeah, he didn’t think so either.
Needless to say some harsh words came my way which I deserved but did not take well. But, Phillip and I know when to put a disagreement aside for a later date so we can (pardon my French) get shit done in the moment. Despite my goof, we made it into the channel just fine and were navigating perfectly north through the channel into Bimini. Now it was time to find our marina (we had decided to stay at Blue Water Marina, a nice middle-ground choice between Brown and Big Game we thought), hale the dockmaster, locate our slip, and get docked. There would always be time to discuss our little tiff later. So, that’s what we did.
Phillip did a great job docking the boat, with great help from a very friendly chap on the dock. The dockhands in the Bahamas are all so helpful and friendly! Then, later, after some steam had worn off, I mustered up some goo-prevention strength and found the courage to tell Phillip, without sniffles, that I was just trying to keep the boat off the breakers to the south and that he had hurt my feelings. And, he, rightfully explained how consumed he was in the moment and how my north-west mumbo-jumbo was, quite frankly, a disappointment. But, we talked it out, then we made up, joined hands and sang Kumbaya.
I’m kidding. Although there is, and will always be, random song outbursts on Plaintiff’s Rest. Ironically, we learned later that the BIMINI entrance on the Explorer Charts suffers from continual shoaling on the south side of the North Bimini Entrance Point. So, my blunder probably kept us off of that unknown shoaling to the north. Oh the irony! But, that is just another great example of the lack of any need to get flustered or high-and-mighty while cruising. Mistakes are just par for the course and sometimes they prove—with the benefit of hindsight—to not even be mistakes at all. Some turn out to be happy accidents that save your hide. Or hull, as the case may be.
But, what was most ironic about having a fight make that day—our very first day in the Bahamas (which probably had Phillip and I both silently worried about how the rest of this voyage was going to go) one of our worst on the boat was that the next day turned out to be our best day of the voyage. Cruising is funny that way in how quickly things can turn good or bad. I think that’s a huge part of what makes you feel so alive out there.
Everything is so volatile. Whether or not things are going to go as planned (when you can even plan them), whether you’ll get into some unexpected weather, whether you’ll be able to safely find where you’re going, and whether that place will be a total dud or absolutely obliterate every expectation you had for it is always up in the air. Every outcome is waiting to be lived to see how it turns out. None of them can in any way be predicted. I’m hoping that makes sense to those of you reading who have not yet gone cruising and are just in the planning and plotting phases of it. Because, to me, the unexpectedness of it all, the IN-ability to plan your days and adventures is what makes it even better.
Case in point: our best day in the Bahamas was the very next day in Bimini. Phillip—my Paddington Bear, the best travel buddy you can possibly have (sorry, he’s taken)—surprised me with a booked charter dive our very first full day in Bimini. “We’re going to dive the Sapona!” he said. I had no clue what a sapona was, but I didn’t care. I was going diving! “Awesome! My first sapona!” I squealed, which made Phillip chuckle. He loves me ‘cause I’m blonde. (Sorry, I’m taken, too.) Turns out, there’s only one Sapona, so this was my first and last, but I learned all about the Saponaon the boat ride out to our dive spot and was fascinated by its rich history.
The SS Sapona, a cargo steamer, was part of a fleet of concrete ships built at the directive of Woodrow Wilson for use during World War I. After the War, it was sold to a Miami developer who used it initially as a casino, then later for oil storage. It was then sold to another developer in 1924 who used it to store alcohol during the Prohibition, but with plans to turn it into a floating nightclub thereafter. Unfortunately, the Sapona ran aground near Bimini during a hurricane in 1926 and broke apart. Now, sitting in only 15 feet of water and having amassed an impressive fish and marine life population, it is a popular dive spot for professional charter dive boats and cruisers in the Bahamas. You can learn more about the fascinating SS Sapona here.
It was an incredible dive with lots of nooks and crannies for fish to hide. We saw a stingray bigger than a circle I can make with both arms, a nurse shark, my very first puffer fish (and his little puffer kid!). It was a baby puffer fish that I wanted to adopt but the dive guys vetoed it. The huge prop and anchor of the Saponathat are partially submerged were both mesmerizing and a little haunting at the same time. Anytime I see a man-made structure sunk underwater, I get a bit of a creepy feeling thinking the ghosts that went down with it are still there. Do underwater planes or boats ever give any of you that feeling? I have to brave up a little before I can swim my whole body into a sunken structure for that reason, thinking the ghost in there might grab me and never let me back up!
What I didn’t know, however, until we completed the dive and I saw people scaling the side of the Sapona and climbing on top was that people jumped off this thing! It’s like rite of Bimini passage. I mean … What did I say on the back of my Salt of a Sailor book?
“I leapt off cliffs.” Or old, grounded cargo steamers, as the case may be. Phillip knew there was no way he was going to keep me from jumping off that boat. And, boy was it a rickety climb up to the top, a plaintiff’s lawyer’s dream! But, while we both made it, Phillip declined to scale his way to the tippity top like I did. I didn’t call him the p-word, but you know I was thinking it. Ha! Sorry. You can take the Tomboy out of the backwoods, but you can’t take the Tomboy out of the girl. I scrambled my way up to the upper most point and lunged high and wide out into the 40-foot drop. It was awesome! I hadn’t jumped from a height that high since college and it was invigorating.
But, this “high” still was not the highest high of that day. I mean, Phillip and I had some pretty freaking amazing days in the Bahamas. It was very hard to select this one, but looking back after the trip, we both did. Do you want to know why?
Because that day we swam with sharks!
Not just one shark, or even just a handful of sharks, we swam with dozens of them! Right by us! All around us! And, this was nothing like the tank dive Phillip (again, another surprise, love that Paddington!) took me on in Tampa at the Florida Aquarium. Awesome video of that dive for you here. You’re welcome!
These sharks weren’t in a tank. They didn’t swim with humans in their quarters every day. They were out there in the open water, allowed to do whatever the heck they wanted, which would include gnawing on humans. Granted, these sharks were somewhat “trained” in that this dive boat stopped often to take swimmers down with them and always fed them afterward. No comment on that practice. I’m just grateful it allowed Phillip and I a truly unforgettable encounter with one of the most majestic and important animals in our oceans. My biggest take-away from that aquarium dive with the sharks was not simply the accomplishment of braving up and swimming with them but the education and enlightenment as to the true nature of sharks, their docile temperament, the need for them in our oceans, and the unfortunate, very human-like tragedy of the greedy plunder with which we trap, maim and needlessly kill them. It is just sad and inexcusable. We are not the victim, nor the prey. Sharks are.
So, when our dive boat made an unexpected stop after rounding all of us divers and snorkelers (and jumpers!) up from the Saponaat “Shark Alley” on the way back to Bimini—the waters around our boat teeming with big black, swirling creatures—and the captain asked any of us, jokingly, if we wanted to go for a swim, Phillip and I said “Absolutely!” and started donning our masks.
Yes, we arethose crazy people who swim with sharks. All told there were about 15-20 reef sharks, ranging from five to maybe eight-feet long. Big, beautiful creatures that maneuvered around us with surprising ease. While they seemed a little curious, they didn’t seem at all hostile. They were just swimming, waiting on their reward of a fish feast afterward. Phillip and I were the only divers to dive down with the dive guide and stand on the bottom, still as a piling, while they circled around us. It was an incredible, unforgettable dive.
And, it was really fun to watch the boat crew feed the sharks afterward to see what they are capable of, but thankfully did not do while we were down there. The swirling mass of them, circling and sliding around and over one another to gracefully inhale each piece of fish thrown in. It was mesmerizing! Video Annie joked: “What? You don’t want to go for a swim?”
And, speaking of Video Annie, I don’t have any footage to show you of the sharks because another great thing happened on that, the best day of our voyage: my GoPro broke. Yep. It went kaput. No pulse. No battery. It simply would not turn on after the Saponajump. And, for a moment I was frantically trying to pull the battery out and put it back in to reboot it while the dive guide was getting us ready to go down with the sharks, and I was frustrated and irritated and cursing it. Then, something just clicked inside and I said, “f*ck it.” I have mentioned many timeson this platform my dread of losing the power and feeling of a moment because I was more worried about filming it than living it. GoPro’s death that day relieved me of that worry on that fantastic day. With the ability to film no longer even an option, there was nothing to stop me from just jumping in, camera-free, and recording it all up here. (Yep, I’m sure you can imagine me tapping my temple. Right here, in the thinktank, my memory bank.) So, I could then, in my own time, put it into spellbinding words later for myself and for you all here. I believe in words. And that was such a freeing feeling. I then knew I would never have to wrestle with that decision at any other point during our Bahamas voyage. GoPro simply wiped that worry away and silently told me: “Go. Just live it. Keep this just for you two.” So, that’s what we did. And, for that, we thank him. R.I.P. GoPro.
Next up, we’ll share our fantastic experience kite-surfing in Bimini (complete with incredible footage and photos taken by a dock neighbor there at Blue Water Marina – thank you Justin!) and our exciting sail over to Andros where we caught our first monster fish of the trip! Stay tuned.