Queen’s Bath Recovery: “Dat a Bit Big Dere”

2020 … what can we say? So many weird, scary, painful, odd things have happened to us this year, it’s hard to believe. I had planned to finish up this Queens Bath saga weeks ago and then … Sally stalled, turned, strengthened and before we could respond or believe it, an unexpected, vicious Cat 2 hurricane ripped through Pensacola destroying our marina. So many friends lost their beautiful boats that day. We went from worrying about a tropical storm to trying to identify boats from their hulls or masts sticking out of the water. It’s been heartbreaking here for the boating community. But, somehow, inexplicably (although I will share many posts here trying to explain it), s/v Plaintiff’s Rest miraculously survived. This is how we found her as soon as Phillip and I could hike our way to the marina Wednesday morning, September 16, 2020.

She is one of only two boats who remained in their same spot with their docks intact. The remainder of the docks on Palafox broke up entirely and beat and bashed their way to the north end of the marina.

I have shared more photos here on Facebook so you can see how we fared. We have rudder damage and some serious bangs and gouges, for sure, but our baby girl is floating, she’s hauled out, and repairs have begun. That’s more than we can say for many in our area who are, right now, making the immensely painful decision of whether to repair or retire their beautiful vessel. But, we have all pulled together and we do feel incredibly lucky. Plaintiff’s Rest will sail again!

Now, since we’ve overcome that horrendous event, let’s share another. What else could 2020 possibly bring but the funkiest injury I’ve ever endured. Buckle up folks, it’s time to get … funky.  This leg wound of mine took some interesting turns while mending up.  Warning: If you don’t want to see open scabs and big weird wounds, feel free to read a text-only version here.  But, for those of you who LOVE to see weird things (like me!) read on and know that now, a good eight months after this injury, I am fully healed, fully functional, with a leg not near as freaky as it once was, and with just a somewhat-noticeable scar to prove I survived this whole ordeal.  I’ll also share our experience seeking medical care in the Bahamas—not anything Phillip or I had done before—and how that compared to medical care in the States.  

December 1, 2019:

I’m sitting on a rock by the Blue Sapphire Hole which is beckoning me to jump in, but I can’t.  I’ve got a heart rate that is through the roof, beads of sweat popped out on my forehead (although I feel cold), and a rock hard thigh the size of a watermelon I’m not even sure I could or should swim or climb with.  

When Phillip finally saw (or I should say I finally revealed to Phillip) the size of my leg after I was rolled on the rocks by a rogue wave at Queen’s Bath, he shut our whole excursion in Eleuthera down.  Phillip stopped at a small grocery store to get ice for my leg.  They didn’t have any ice for sale at the time, so he improvised and grabbed a couple bags of frozen corn which I plopped on my melon-thigh as he drove us back to the ferry that would take us back to our boat in Spanish Wells.  After an awkward hokey-pokey (right leg in, right leg out) attempt at a shower, Phillip sat me down in the saloon to assess and doctor my wounds and take the first round of photographs in case we needed to send them to a doctor for advice/treatment.  This was my status the afternoon of the event:

While I had a series of scratches on each chin, my hips, and ankles, it was clear my face and right thigh wounds were the worst.  While my thigh was painful, a dull, deep ache, it wasn’t in any way unbearable.  It hurt a bit to walk, and I think running would have made me yelp, but I was grateful my leg was mostly functional.  I believed at the time time that I had not broken any bones and I was incredibly pleased with that.  As it was after 5:00 p.m. by the time we got me cleaned up and worked over and I was, by all accounts, injured but totally fine, we lubed my wounds and wrapped my leg with an ACE bandage and decided to call the clinic there in Spanish Wells as soon as possible the following morning.  

I spoke with a “Nurse Gibson” who was super friendly and attentive.  This was our first encounter, however, with the Bahamian perception of the Queen’s Bath versus how unknowing tourists see it.  While we thought we were visiting an idyllic site where “natural pools are filled with crystal clear water, warmed by the sun, and perfect for soaking,” when I told Nurse Gibson I was injured at Queen’s Bath, she immediately piped up with an “Ahhh … you are lucky.  Many people go and do not come back from dere.”  I didn’t even have to explain what happened, she already knew a wave had rolled me.  

I told her I had a rather large lump (swelling I thought it might be?) that had formed at the greatest point of impact as well as multiple cuts and lacerations elsewhere but our primary concern was my leg.  Nurse Gibson asked about signs of infection, of which I had none, and she confirmed I did not have any deep or open wounds that were actively bleeding.  After that she told me what had formed on my leg was a hematoma that would simply have to be absorbed by the body over time (like a bruise).  It is not something they typically drain.  It started to sound like there was nothing Nurse Gibson could do for me, which got me a little nervous.  While I don’t, in any way, love going to the doctor (I’m quite stubborn about it), I do love the peace of mind you get when you’re worried and unsure about some troubling symptoms or unknown condition and a doctor looks you over and says “No, you’re fine, it’s just X.  Not a big deal.”  I didn’t want a simple phone call to be the end of it.  

“Maybe I could just pop in to be sure, or send you a photo of it, perhaps.  Would that be okay?” I asked Nurse Gibson.  

“Sure, send me a picture,” she replied, which I did to the cell number she gave me while she put me on hold.  Phillip and I sat, staring at my phone on speaker on the saloon table, wondering if what was going on inside my leg was “not a big deal,” or something that might need draining or surgery, or who knows what.  

Tick.  Tock.  It felt like an hour.  It was probably a minute and a half.  Nurse Gibson came back on and said:

“Dat a bit big dere.”

It is a quote Phillip and I have used many times since to describe both my leg and anything “a bit big dere.”  After viewing the photos, Nurse Gibson said she wanted me to come to the clinic so she could have a look.  Phillip and I immediately packed our party up and shuffled over to the clinic a few blocks away.  I could walk on it just fine.  It wasn’t 100% comfortable, mind you, but it was doable.  This “Public Clinic” is the clinic we went to.

If Nurse Gibson was surprised when she saw my wound in person, she hid it well.  She pushed around a few spots and did say it was the largest hematoma she had ever seen.  But, she was pleased that it did not have any heat or other signs of infection.  She wanted me to get an x-ray to make sure I had not broken my leg and to make sure the hematoma wasn’t putting unwanted pressure on something or was not likely to cause any other problems.  Nurse Gibson advised with the risk of infection from re-opening the wound to drain it, it would be better to allow my body to simply re-absorb the blood over time.  I saw her on Monday, December 2, 2019 and she scheduled me for an x-ray appointment on Wednesday, December 4, 2019 at a facility across the road from her clinic.  

It was about that time Phillip and I started talking about leaving the boat for a bit and flying home to Pensacola, FL.  While we’d had a friend (shout-out again to BaBaLu!) who had ordered us up a new fresh water pump for our Westerbeke 27A immediately after ours failed during our attempt to sail to the BVIs, it seemed the shipping was going to take several weeks to get curried through Nassau and out to Spanish Wells.  And even that was no guarantee.  With our boat busted, and Captain Annie banged up, hobbling, and in need of x-rays, many signs were pointing us toward home to take some time to heal, work, and make a new decision for hurricane season 2020.  (And, with hindsight we thankfully now know flying home was the absolute right call as our pump shipment saga is an entertaining story in and of itself.  It took us months to get that pump … just you wait!).  Phillip called Delta the next day, Tuesday, December 3, 2019 and booked our flights home that Saturday, December 7, 2019.  

Although I went to the x-ray facility in Spanish Wells on Wednesday at the time Nurse Gibson advised, there was a note on the door that said “Closed this week.”  This is not at all surprising for the Bahamas.  They operate on “island-time.”  The thought that a business might be open this week and closed the next (for no apparent reason) is a completely normal occurrence there.  There was nothing I could do about it.  And, at that time, we did not suspect any broken bones, nor was my hematoma causing me any issues.  While my leg was certainly starting to bruise up nicely, that didn’t bother me. My main issue then (and this would continue for weeks) was keeping my leg wrapped in a way that didn’t pull the scab off of my wound every time I removed the dressing or that wasn’t too wet/moist to allow a scab to form.  This white pussy patch was a problem area for a while.  I can’t tell you how many times I re-opened it.  Yuck.

Phillip and I just decided I would go get x-rays as soon as we got home to Pensacola.  Other than my thigh wound, I seemed to be healing alright and I was roughly 75% functional. (I wasn’t going to be doing any swimming any time soon with my open wound or any rigorous physical activity that would bounce my hematoma painfully around, but that was tolerable.)  But, it was during those last days in Spanish Wells that I entered my strange “Avatar phase.”

The impact site on my forehead puffed up and the bridge of my nose flared out.  It sure hurt to sneeze or blow my nose during that time, but I still thought it was just a reaction to the impact (not a fracture).  But, over the course of the next few days whatever fluid had accumulated in my forehead started to drain out into my eyes causing weird puffiness and bruising around my eyes, almost like someone had punched me in the nose and given me two black eyes.  I guess someone did. The Queen!

I swear I looked just like an Avatar.  

My close friends and family, whom I had told about my injuries (it wasn’t many), got a real kick out of seeing these photos.  And, I was glad we could all laugh about it because thankfully I was still HERE, walking my Avatar-self around Spanish Wells, and not washed up ashore somewhere on the Atlantic coast.  While Nurse Gibson only gave us a glimpse of the Bahamians’ opinion of the Queen’s Bath, the many, many locals I encountered during our last days there, who often asked what had happened to me, gave us the low-down, dirty truth about the Queen’s Bath.  

“Ahhh … what ‘appened to you?” they would ask. 

“I got rolled by a wave at Queen’s Bath,” I would tell them.  These are just a few of the verbatim responses we got: 

“Ooohh many have died there.  One guy wanted to propose there and he was taken by a wave right before he proposed.  His body was never found.”  

“Uhhh … a 19-year old was killed there not many years back.  His body washed up a’few days later.”

“One guy from the States and his brother went there in a rage.  The brother’s body was never found.”  

“I am too scared to drive over the Glass Window.  My friend’s father was swept away there.  His body found several days later.  The clothes ripped completely off.”  

I can’t tell you how many independent stories we heard about death at Queen’s Bath and virtually every local told us “you should not go in a rage.”  It was anything but a rage when we went, low tide on a calm day, yet it was still dangerous.  I’m telling you, I cannot stress this enough:

BE CAREFUL AT THE GLASS WINDOW AND QUEEN’S BATH!!

Okay, rant over.  Back to the funky pics!  When I got back to the States, I booked an appointment with my primary care physician immediately and scheduled an x-ray.  This is what my leg looked like the day I went to the doc’s.  I call this my “morgue photo.”  It literally looked like the leg of a dead person!!  

The physician’s assistant (“PA”) who saw me said she had never seen a hematoma as large as mine so she called the doctor while she was in the room with me to ask whether it needed draining or other care.  Like Nurse Gibson, my doctor at Baptist Health Care advised the best course of action was to allow my body to reabsorb the blood that had pooled.  I was given instructions for frequent icing and elevating, then it was off for my x-rays.  I found a long flowy dress (down to my ankles) was the best thing for me to wear during those weeks so no one could see my fatly-wrapped thigh, but when I would pull the dress back to show the medical personnel my wound, many dropped their jaws, as I would have too if I wasn’t so used to seeing my Zombie leg every day.  I was surprised, however, to learn after the x-ray that I had suffered a hairline fracture to my forehead and nose.  That definitely explained my body’s Avatar response!  

Over the course of the next few weeks/months, my leg slowly began to heal.  The bruising trickled away in weird purple rivulets and the mound that was my hematoma started to re-absorb centimeter by centimeter.  

A little worried about the slow process, I went to see my doc at Baptist again after about a month.  This time it was not the PA but my actual doctor who got to see me and his eyes literally bulged when he saw my leg for the first time.  But, he did not hesitate in telling me news I probably already could have guessed, but still did not want to hear.

“It will probably take six months or more for that to re-absorb.”  

Six months?  I thought.  He told me that on February 11, 2020 which meant I was going to have to live with my “lady lump” (another name Phillip and I came up with for her) until July at least!  But, what could I do about it?  Nothing was the answer.  Keep icing and resting and carry on.  

I often sent friends progress photos of my leg during this time and I had one write back and literally say “Please stop sending these. Your leg is horrifying!”  I kept sending them anyway … : )  That’s the price you pay for being my friend!  And, my followers!  This was my progress April through July:

April 2020

One of my close friends (whom I texted the pic above to) said: “Looks like abstract art.”

April 2020
April 2020
May 2020
May 2020
July 2020
July 2020

I am thrilled to share this is what my leg looks like now:

August 2020
August 2020

The tanner I get during the summer, the harder it is to even notice the scrape scars on the my thigh.  There is a slight blue/purple around the ring of my hematoma and it is still hard and numb in the center, but it is no longer a bulbous lump protruding off of my leg, thank goodness!  And, my little lump actually sits right on my vastus medialis muscle, so the slight protrusion kind of looks like I’ve bulked that muscle up a bit.  I got lucky in that regard.  

Here is a pic of me just a few weeks ago at the beach, and from afar, you can’t even see any scarring or lump on my right leg.

August 2020

As for my face, those scratches did start to heal up nicely even before we left the Bahamas and the Avatar drainage quickly subsided.

December 2019

However, I definitely have three new, visible scars on my forehead.  You can really see them when I’m tan and flushed (from a workout or something).  

August 2020

They were pinkish-red in the beginning and I had to cover them with makeup but that worked well enough.  

January 2020

Over time they turned more white and are hardly visible when I’m more white too, in the winter. 

Say hello to Lawyer Annie! February 2020

Overall I have very little to complain about or bemoan considering the severity of what I now know happened in those harrowing seconds as I rolled over the rocks and how well my tough little body handled it.  I think she deserves a whopping high five.  On a final note, this was an interesting takeaway from our experiences seeking medical care in both the Bahamas (which, I mentioned, we had never yet done) compared to in the States.

Comparison of the Available Care in the Bahamas Versus the States

We learned when talking to many people after my injury that had I suffered a severely-broken bone or some other serious injury that needed immediate emergency treatment, Phillip and I would have found ourselves in a very bad place.  It would have cost somewhere between $10,000 and $20,000 to get a helicopter to fly out to Eleuthera or Spanish Wells to fly me to an ER in Nassau if I had needed it.  The gal that worked the desk at Yacht Haven Marina told us when her little brother broke his leg jumping off the infamous bridge connecting Spanish Wells to Russell Island and they learned it was going to cost $15,000 to fly him to Nassau on an emergency medic chopper, the family buzzed him across instead on a neighbor’s power boat.  “That ride was not com-turble for lil’ Davin, I’ll tell you dat,” she said.  I couldn’t imagine bouncing around on a power boat with a cracked tibia.  Uggh.  So, the availability and cost of emergency care in the Bahamas is hard to come by.  I’m incredibly lucky I didn’t need anything of the sort.  

However, the difference in the time it took to get care and the cost was astonishing.  Phillip and I sat in Nurse Gibson’s clinic for ten minutes, maybe, before she brought me back for an immediate, personal inspection and the visit cost me a total of $35.  Back in the States, however, I sat about forty-five minutes after my scheduled appointment time before I was called back to the examination room where I sat another fifteen before the PA came into see me.  That visit was over $100 with my co-pay costing me $25.  I then spent a good two hours being shuffled from desk to desk in the hospital before I was sent up to the third floor for my x-ray, where I sat another forty-or-so minutes before they called me back.  The x-rays I was going to get in the Bahamas I was told would cost $160.  The cost of the very same x-rays the States?  $380.  I wonder why that is.  

Things that make you go hmmmmm …. 

Injured at Queen’s Bath

Warning: there are some graphic footage and photos in this blog.  If you get queasy easily, feel free to read a text-only version of this occurrence here.  

Part Two: As I mentioned in my last blog, what occurred that day in Eleuthera was one of the main reasons Phillip and I ended our cruising season in 2019 early.  While that decision proved wildly advantageous  in the following months—particularly when the unpredictable COVID pandemic began to spread—we did not know it at the time.  All we knew then was: Captain Annie was not in great shape to set off on an offshore passage anytime soon.  I was in need of x-rays, wound care, antibiotics, and months of icing and elevating.  What we know now is: I’m incredibly lucky to still be here, albeit with a new wicked scar that, along with the others, form the chorus that is my story.  Here’s what happened.

December 1, 2019

Phillip and I had just returned from our failed attempt to sail from Spanish Wells, Bahamas on (what was supposed to be) our longest offshore passage yet on the I65 route down to the BVIs.  After we were towed back in, we met another couple, Mike and Melody, who had just sailed into Spanish Wells after a pretty rough Gulf Stream crossing, and had set up a fun joint date to ferry over to Eleuthera on a calm day and explore several attractions Phillip had found in the guide books: 1) the Glass Window; 2) the Queen’s Bath; 3) the Preacher’s Cave; and 4) the Sapphire Blue Hole

The Glass Window did not in any way disappoint.  It’s amazing to think one tiny little cleft in the rocks traversed by a small bridge is all that stands between the mighty deep blue Atlantic and the shallow, emerald-green Caribbean Sea.  

Mike, Melody, Phillip, and I had become practically giddy when a big wave came toppling over the rocks soaking us up to our hips on the road.  In our euphoric state, we made our way to our next stop, the Queen’s Bath.  The Bath had been promoted as a tranquil spot high up on the cliff where you can wade in the pools of water that form in the quarry and are warmed by the sun.  Hence the name: the Queen’s Bath.  Unfortunately, the pools were not as warm as we had expected (a little chilly to be honest), but the view out into the Atlantic was stunning.  Mike and Melody picked their way down a little closer to the water while Phillip and I were taking pictures further up.  

Mike hollered at us from a pool with a fantastic view so Phillip and I ventured over.  We sat there for a bit watching the water in the ocean ebb and flow, hoping to see a good splash.  We were probably a good 20 feet up and away from the water below.  Mind you, this was a PERFECTLY CALM DAY.  Very little wind and waves.  

As we watched the Atlantic breathe a swell, a wave crashed against the rocks and sprayed up soaking us all.  Immediately after it subsided we all looked quickly to one another.  At first I didn’t see Phillip which scared me, but he soon popped up, saying he had jumped down to hold on tight as the wave came through.  Looking back, I cannot tell you precisely why none of us, not a one, had a worry or fear at that moment.  No hairs were rising on the back of our necks.  No red flags were waving.  Nothing told us, at that point: Beware.  And, this rings true for Phillip who is a very cognizant and cautious person, considering his military background, as well as Mike, who has considerable military experience as well, including that as a field medic.  It just did not seem dangerous.  That’s all I can say.  And, it was only a brief 5-10 seconds after that first considerably minor wave came through that the ocean took a deep breath and sent a massive rogue wave through that changed everything.  While I was the closest to the water, I wasn’t but about 2-3 feet from Mike and Melody who were sitting and standing on the other side of the same pool.  I was holding on, incredibly tightly, when the water rose up and began to rush past us.  At first it was thrilling.  Such an intoxicating, exciting feeling.  

Then it took me.  

It was just far too powerful.  

I felt an immediate plunge of guilt as I felt my hands rip off the rocks and my body struck in several places.  I can’t tell you where I felt an impact (other than all over) until, after a few tumbles, my head finally struck.  That one I remember.  I heard a little crack at the moment and thought it was my neck popping.  I would find out later it was something else.  But, when my face struck, for whatever reason, instinct told me to grab that rock and never let go.  I reached out and got a firm grip just as the massive amount of water that had moments ago submerged us now began to rush out. Imagine holding onto the edge of an Olympic size swimming pool at the top of a hotel and the bottom of the pool drops out. Hundreds of gallons rushed past me with astonishing suction.

I held on.  

When the water receded and we all scrambled to make eye contact, I will never forget Mike’s expression.  He was the first to see my injuries.  His eyes immediately bulged.  The whites around his pupils are burned into my memory.  His jaw went slack and he stumbled at first trying to lunge toward me, his hand outstretched, to examine my wounds.  It must have looked bad, but thankfully when he stroked a wet hand over my forehead, it revealed only surface wounds there and he breathed a sigh of relief, as did I because I was able to move everything just fine.  Phillip looked mortified.  And angry.  I was definitely angry.  Mad at myself for letting the water take me, for letting myself get injured, for (as stupid as this sounds) potentially ruining what was supposed to be a great day for everyone.  

I immediately downplayed any need for treatment.  “It’s just scratches,” I told them.  “I’m fine,” I chuckled with a smile.  And, in that moment, I did feel fine.  I’m sure it was the enormous amounts of adrenaline pumping through me, the coursing of which had mercifully guided my hands to the rock I gripped with all I had that both pummeled and saved me.  I’m sure it was the adrenaline and shock, as well, that had made it not hurt that bad.  Especially considering what I found out later had occurred in those tumultuous ten seconds.

I suffered hairline fractures to my forehead and nose, deep, scar-rending scratches all over my body and face, and an impact to my right thigh that caused a hematoma I believe I will live with in some form for the rest of my life.  I cannot believe I didn’t break my femur with that hit.  

Even though the pictures you will soon see on this blog and the next are alarming, know that I am lucky. Extremely lucky.  With the wisdom and insight of hindsight, I know now it could have been far, far worse.  There could have easily been NO wounds to see, no body to find at all.  While the four of us had no idea at the time, we have since learned the Glass Window and Queen’s Bath in Eleuthera are actually notorious for sweeping people across the rocks, breaking bones, gnashing skin, even snatching people entirely in their grasp, never to be seen again.  Here are some videos (don’t watch if you’re squeamish). 

Glass Window:

Go to 1:18: https://youtu.be/eE-j-An2M1E

Go to 10:10: https://youtu.be/v9IauO2V8E8

Article about a 19-year old who was swept off the bridge and never found … sad.  

Here is a video by another travel vlogger (go to 5:48) showing them in a calm pool at the Queen’s Bath when a VERY small wave comes over their shoulders, but there is a good shot right after the wave of the flesh-eating rocks that I was raked across.  Yeesh.

The Wynns even did a video featuring the Glass Window and Queen’s Bath and they mention (while standing on the ledge) wishing it were “a raging sea, a storm,” so they could really capture the intensity of it (go to 9:02).  I’m telling you, you just can’t fathom how fast and powerful the water can become once a swelling wave slams into the rocky cliff.  It can shoot up 100 feet in an instant, as if gravity does not exist.  

I’m sharing all of these so those of you out there who are planning some day to visit these very visit-worthy, stunning places, please PLEASE give the incredible power of the ocean its due. Stay back from the ledge. Do not go if the seas are rough. Go see them. Absolutely. Just, go with caution.  

Okay, enough of that.  Suffice it to say, we went on a CALM day, and we never expected the wave we got, its immense power, or our unfortunate exposure to such danger.  So, rewind back to post-Annie rock-roll.  Like I said, I did not believe I was hurt that bad.  No broken bones (that I knew of at the time), no persistent, dangerous bleeds.  Just scratches … or so I thought.  I convinced everyone I was fine and that we should just carry on with our day.  “Take a pic,” I said.  And they did.  And, I’m smiling.  

While you can definitely see the abrasions on my forehead, some on my chins and thighs as well, “Everything is fine,” I told them.  Nothing to see (or treat) here.  (I do hope you are realizing what a dumb move that was, but I’ve been known to make a few of those in my past.)  

We carried on, ambling around a nearby beach to pick up shells.  I tied a sarong around my waist to cover my injuries as we headed to a little eatery for lunch.  I even took a selfie in the car making a funny face at the camera, seriously thinking it was just going to be some minor wounds to deal with.  

I cleaned up my face and other scrapes a bit in the bathroom at the restaurant and pulled my hat down low to hide my marred forehead (something I would do every day for the coming weeks).  But, as we sat at the table and ate, weird things started happening to my body.  I could feel under the table as my right thigh (which had hit the hardest) started to swell and firm up considerably.  I didn’t mention anything at lunch (because I’m brilliant remember, and stubborn … a quality Phillip has had to battle before).  But, as we made our way to the next stop, the Preacher’s Cave, my heart began to race as we walked up the path.  I got hot all over and sweaty.  I honestly thought I was about to pass out.  I sat down and finally showed Phillip my leg.  It was the size of a watermelon.  

That’s when we all changed course.  Nothing was fine.  There was definitely something to see here.  And treat.  I had a leg the size of a blimp and pain that was finally starting to seep in where all of my joints had hit.  My head began to throb.  It was time to take action and seek treatment, which was an experience in and of itself.  Stay tuned next time for the final chapter of this saga.  The evolution of my leg wound will bewilder you.  

Take a Virtual Trip With Us! To Our Favorite Island in the Bahamas: Spanish Wells!

Since we are all pinned down at home unable to travel, I thought you might enjoy a virtual tour of what has now become mine and Phillip’s favorite island in the Bahamas: Spanish Wells!  While this island definitely impressed us the first time we came to Eleuthera in 2017, earning our “favorite beach in the Bahamas” award, Phillip and I now know we didn’t stay quite long enough to truly let the spirit of Spanish Wells sink in.  This time, however, in November of last year, soon after my scariest moment underwater in the Berries, we were able to spend a solid week in Spanish Wells while preparing to make our run offshore to the BVIs, which allowed us to uncover more of its hidden gems.  Spanish Wells has both the non-touristy, untouched “local feel” of the Bahamas—where you can (and usually do) walk the entire island every day and interact with the locals—while still offering several diverse and delicious little bars and restaurants (even an ice cream stand!) where you can indulge on their island-inspired treats as well as plentiful groceries and marine supplies.  This balance of authenticity, bounty, and beauty has made Spanish Wells our favorite stop in the Bahamas so far.  Here, let me show you.  Take a virtual trip with us and tell me:

Where else in the Bahamas can you … 

Make a beautiful overnight run from the Berries (probably our second favorite stop in the Bahamas) to be greeted by “Buddha” himself at Buddha’s Snack Shack along with infinite words of wisdom on the walls?  If I wore pants instead of a bikini, I’d tuck a leg, too. 

Watch two stunning African grey parrots give each other “big love?”

Stumble upon a craft gallery right on Main Street filled with incredible pieces all made by the local children?

Hold a setting Spanish sun?  I mean …

See such a dizzying array of island colors while walking to Mimi’s Beach Hangout to lounge in a Lazyboy on the beach?

Venture out at night for a cold sweet treat from Papa’s Scoops, a walk-up ice cream shop (and take photos you won’t remember the next day)?

Make Phillip reconsider his law firm hours? : D

Challenge one another to a cannonball contest by jumping off the famous Russell Island bridge (a rite of passage for all local kids in Spanish Wells)? Tell me … who cannonballed best? : )

Then, post-jump, get surprised by and treated to fresh, hand-made ceviche at this local’s little pop-up stand on the Russell side?

Enjoy Christmas decorations (at our favorite restaurant, Wreckers) for months, instead of only weeks, as the locals in Spanish Wells put them up the day after Halloween? Gotta love their Christmas spirit!

Have flaming cheese brought to your table? I mean …

Cook up fresh-caught strawberry grouper and massive lobster tails bought from a local fisherman at the docks who loves to share all kinds of stories from his forty years of fishing around Spanish Wells?

Get to walk past this awesome store-front painting every day?  (I actually started to miss it after we left, and it gives me a great feeling of nostalgia every time I see it again).

Stroll a shore this beautiful?

KITE a shore this beautiful? Annnnddd almost get “kilt” (Annie term) by Phillip – watch till the end! : )

I’ll tell you, it was really tough for Phillip and I to leave Spanish Wells, but we were excited to venture out on what we expected to be our longest passage yet on Plaintiff’s Rest on an 8-10 day run offshore on the “I65” route from Eleuthera down to the BVIs. Boy, do we have some doozies to share from that trip.  There was more than one casualty. And many lessons learned.  Next time! We hope you enjoyed this virtual island trip! Stay safe followers.

My Scariest Moment Underwater

Getting up close and personal with seven-foot sand sharks at the Florida Aquarium?  

No, that wasn’t it.  Let’s see … coming up on a sunken airplane and fearing I might find the dead pilot, all bloated and rotting still in the pilot seat?  

That was a close second. I always imagine the dead bodies of those who may have been lost in the crash when I come up on a sunken vessel or plane.  Viewing footage from the sunken Titanic really freaks me out.  

But, I’ll have to confess that my actual scariest moment underwater up to this point was when I got spooked by a starfish.  Yes.  A starfish. Those super cute little critters that barely move at all and can’t hurt anything.  I can blame that one on Phillip as he brought it up right next to my face when the water was murky from us scrubbing the bottom and we knew sharks could be around so I was on high-alert. Inches from my watery goggles, that thing looked like a carnivorous octopus. So, I felt highly justified in my momentary full-body starfish freak-out.  But, that moment was recently one-upped when we were cruising this last November in the Berry Islands by my to-date scariest moment underwater.

November, 2019:

Although our sail from Devil’s-Hoffmandown to Chub Cay in the southern Berry Islands, Bahamas was not a fun one, it was rough upwind romp in 18-22 knots of wind (yuck!), thankfully Plaintiff’s Rest handled it incredibly well.  

Especially considering this was her first time sailing in six months as she had just weathered hurricane season astonishingly well hunkered down in Great Harbour Cay.  She beat and bashed her way right down the Berry Island chain to the inlet near Chub Cay.

Phillip and I were both thrilled when we finally got some wind-block and felt the conditions ease up.  We had decided to sail down this way before making our way over to Eleuthera to visit some friends of our who have a house on Frazer’s Hog Cay.  The story of how we met Steve and Pat and our completely random but instantly un-severable friendship is always a fun one to share. Feel free to check it out in this fun blog post: Cruising Is About People: Steve & Pat, This One’s For You!  

Our first picnic together, we had a hot-dog potty! Get it? : D

Steve and Pat are the type of people cut from the same cloth as Pam Wall, extremely well-traveled, resourceful, kind, incredibly funny, and wildly entertaining.  They’re the kind of people you feel every moment spent with them was one not wasted.  Phillip and I were excited for the opportunity to spend another memorable few days with Steve and Pat while on their ball there off of Frazer’s Hog Cay before we headed off to Eleuthera with the very loose plans to potentially take the “I-65 route” down to the BVIs in 2020.  That was the plan … and those always work out to a “T” when cruising, right?  

Right?!

For the moment, we had no idea what future lay in store other than a few fun days likely spent snorkeling, spear-fishing, beach picnicking, kitesurfing, and often ending with a fun community dinner each night on the island followed by a rousing game of Mexican Dominoes which … can get pretty heated!  That was how we spent our time last time at Frazer’s Hog Cay and it was actually Steve who taught us both how to spearfish back in 2018.  

During that trip, I speared my first lobster!  It was a thrilling crunch through this guy’s shell that got me hooked on spearfishing! 

Especially for lobster as they rarely flee.  Yeah, that’s right, I like prey that can’t run away.  I’m that guy.  Although, they can slide down your spear, though, which is exactly what this guy did, crashing right on my face, causing me to have an absolute flip-out. (Those are real.)  I ended up dropping him down to the bottom in my thrashing and coughing, but thankfully he wasn’t able to get off the spear so I was able to retrieve him.  I was told it made for an exceedingly entertaining show from Steve and Pat’s front row seats in the dinghy.

In light of that experience last time, Steve was excited to get us out again for another spear session in the Berries. Our first day, we dove right around their house and Phillip speared several lobsters!

Man, that was a tasty dinner. Although I got absolutely creamed in Mexican Dominoes that night, it was worth it for the fresh shellfish! Day two, the crew packed up on a fellow islander’s toot-around boat, lovingly named the Chub Tub and headed over to picnic and snorkel on Bird Cay.

Again, Steve had us armed with spears in case we spotted anything swimming around that could be equally tasty for dinner. That day, spearfishing in the Berries, however, left me with a lasting, albeit frightening memory.  Who here is familiar with lionfish?  

Along the Gulf coast, there has been a big push in the last 5-10 years encouraging fishermen to hunt and kill as many lionfish as possible, as they are invasive, unnatural predators in our Gulf waters.  Sadly, lionfish are carnivorous with no known predators and the ability to reproduce all year long.  As such, they stand as a deadly threat to native stocks such as snapper and grouper as well as algae-eating parrotfish.  So, when the crew spotted a lionfish during one of our beach picnic outings, Steve was the first to hand me a spear.  Any enemy of the mesmerizing ecosystem in the Bahamas is an enemy of mine, so I did not hesitate.

I dove down to where two lionfish had been spotted, just a few feet under water, hiding among some rocks and coral.  I was nervous but excited as I drew back my spear, aiming directly for the body.  Then the worst thing happened.  I speared the first lionfish clean through on the first shot without issue.  

Why is that the worst thing to have happened?  Because it made me undeservedly confident.  Then another terrible thing happened.  I shot the second lionfish clean through.  The crowd was going wild!  

Then a terrible thing happened.  A third was spotted and I went after him with reckless abandon, feeling like the true lion tamer I thought I was.  If my head could have fit inside of his open mouth I would have stuck it in there just to hear the roar from the crowd.  I was undefeatable!  I was a champion!  I was … delusional.  

With my spear cocked and aimed at the third lionfish, I let it go and watched it pierce into the rocks around the lionfish.  He wriggled and retreated but he was not speared.  I followed down further, got closer, cocked and aimed but missed again and when I did, on the verge of my ability to hold my breath, that’s when my scariest moment underwater occurred.  

He charged.  

As soon as the spear left my hand and struck the rock, that lionfish burst out of his hole, with all quills fully fanned out and he started steaming toward me.  

It was just for a second before he turned back around, but I think my heart stopped.  I know I pissed my bikini.  I sucked in a mouthful of water and breached the surface hacking and coughing and flailing as fast as I could away from those rocks, envisioning an army of lionfish chasing me.  Although I was, again, a wildly-entertaining flailing Annie mess, this time was far more frightening than the lobster-face encounter.  I’m pretty sure all lobsters can do is pinch and snip you.  But, the thought of being poisoned underwater? No thank you.  The thought of instant paralysis and sinking earned that frightening fish the win for the day. Although I was brave enough to go back to get my spear, I couldn’t see that bastard lionfish anymore when I did and I’m not sure I would have aimed at him again … that day anyway. For the time being, he will be, for me, the one that got away. But, I was thankful for those I was able to spear. And, that I had at least killed two of those terrible predators.  

Take that Lionfish 1 and Lionfish 2.  As for you, Lionfish 3.  I hope we meet again someday beneath the deep sea.   

 

Ever Been On a Sail You Just Want to End?

Phillip and I will both eagerly, happily, readily admit it: We are 100% fair-weather sailors on our boat. While there are definitely longer, more intense passages we still want to make in our lifetime—sailing around Cape Horn, for example, sailing in the Indian Ocean, we’ve even thought about doing a leg of the Clipper Race—we probably will not do those in our boat and we will not do them because we like to bash around in rough conditions.  Much like the Atlantic-crossings we have done, Phillip and I would undertake those because of the accomplishment it would signify. There is a lot of pride that comes into play when we both can say: “Yes, we’ve sailed across the Atlantic.”  Or, when people ask, “How did you get to Cuba?” and we can say: “We sailed there.”  

“Just the two of you?”

“Yes, just the two of us.” 

Five-day bash across the Gulf to Cuba in 2016

I’ll be honest.  That’s a pretty f&*king cool feeling.  I love the look people sometimes give us in response.  I feel like they are now thinking there are more things in the world possible than they knew, and that, if those two can do that, maybe I can do more than I imagined.  I hope Phillip and I always inspire each other and other people to greater endeavors.  When Phillip and I voluntarily embark on passages we know could likely become extremely arduous, we do it for that reason: to accomplish something rare, do something many others have not.  

Crossing the Atlantic with Yannick on s/v Andanza in 2016

But, the only reward for a common day-hop where the conditions became gnarly is: You Survived! And your reward is simply a “Whew! We made it,” and an icy cocktail at the end of the day.  I’ll be honest: I’m going to have a cocktail either way, so I’ll take it without the bash-about and potential broken-whatever.

Phillip and I would never take our boat out in 25-30 knot winds and big seas just for the sport of it. No, Ma’am.  If Phillip and I find ourselves in that unfortunate situation, it’s because we didn’t know it was going to be like that out there and our weather prediction was off.  (Because that never happens, right? ; )  Well, that was precisely what happened to us when we wrapped our magic dinghy ride to the Blue Hole at Devil’s-Hoffman Cay and sailed down to Chub Cay in the southern Berry Islands to meet up again with our friends Pat and Steve who have a wonderful rustic island home there.  It was supposed to be an easy beam-reach day-sail.  

Supposed to … 

When we left Devil’s-Hoffman, Phillip and I were expecting winds of 15 out the east which would have put us on a nice beam reach heading south toward Chub Cay.  And, recall this was going to be our first time sailing Plaintiff’s Rest—not motor-sailing as we did from Great Harbour to Devil’s-Hoffman, but pure sailing—in SIX MONTHS (Lord!) because we had just returned after hurricane season to pick up our cruising again in November, 2019.  

First selfie with our baby girl after hurricane season!

We were so excited to get underway, in fact, and start sailing that day that we weighed anchor and set off in the pouring rain.  

We didn’t care.  We were going sailing!  Our kind of sailing.  

And, it definitely started out that way!  See?

Nice 15-knot winds right on the beam.  We were flying!  Look at that. Making 7.3 speed with ease (and comfort).  But, about an hour into our “perfect sail” the conditions started to deteriorate. Of course, the rain came back, in cold driving sheets.

But, far worse, the wind not only shifted—to where it was coming more out of the southwest, right on our nose as we tried to pivot onto a heading toward Chub Cay—they also picked up to 22-25 knots, which is just more than we prefer.  Don’t get me wrong.  Our baby girl is tough as nails, with all new wire rigging put on in 2016, her mast-step rebuilt stronger than ever before, and a super rugged but flexible balsa core throughout.  She is fully capable of sailing in 25+ with ease, I just don’t personally want to see, hear, or feel her do it.  The potential for breakage skyrockets and stresses me out.  I’m not a shoe person but it would be like putting on a new pair of exquisite, shiny Louis Vitton heels and then running like mad through the streets.  You are totally going to mess those shoes up.  (And your ankles, too, in that scenario).  Although I hear women do it … on a professional level!

But, there we were, three hours now away from turning back toward Devil’s-Hoffman, or two hours into the wind to get where we needed to keep our cruising momentum.  What would you do?

We reefed up and kept trucking. It was kind of shocking to see how quickly the seas kicked up, though.  I guess with no protection from the south, it doesn’t take long for the wind to impact the seas, because we were beating into some miniature monsters. 

Every time we tacked thinking it would give us an advantage, I swear we were going backwards.  Like we were on a sea treadmill and losing ground. I felt like the boat gave us a “Really guys?” each time we tacked and didn’t gain an inch.

Phillip’s “What the hell, Wind?” face

In moments like those, I wish I could become this huge hand that comes down from the sky and just plucks her like a rubber bath duckie out of that mess and sets her gently down in the anchorage, still and safe, and on her hook.  

Have any of you ever felt that way?  You’re fine to bury the rails and beat to windward on anyone’s boat but your own? I wonder if I’m alone on this?

Although Phillip and I love sailing, we love cruising, we love being on our boat, there are just some sails I want to end, and, unfortunately, this was one for us.  Our first sail of the 2019 cruising season, and we just wanted it to end.  But, I must say the boat performed beautifully.  She powered through, and that hellish beat was over in a few hours.  I can’t tell you what a sigh of relief Phillip and I both let out when we turned into the inlet at Chub Cay and the seas finally loosened their grip. 

My “Thank God, we’re almost there” smile

I love that moment when the boat finally slows from a full-out run to a gentle gallop, then to an easy trot, and you know you’re going to make it.  That day we (well, and by “we” I mean primarily Plaintiff’s Rest, with me and Phillip simply riding on her back) definitely earned our “Whew! We made it.”  And, you remember what I said about the cocktail.  Happy hour is not optional on Plaintiff’s Rest. : )  

There she is! Anchored out safely (thank goodness!) behind Frazer’s Hog Cay after a rough beat.

Next up, we play around the southern Berries with some fantastic island friends and embark on our first lionfish spearing adventure.  You never know, Captain Annie may still become a lion tamer yet!  

The Magic of a Dinghy Ride

It’s not just a rubber transport, it’s more of a magic carpet.  Looking at the photos from our time at Devil’s-Hoffman in the Berry Islands, Bahamas, I felt inspired to share a little about … the magic of a dinghy ride.  

For those who haven’t yet bought a boat, or haven’t yet set off on an extended cruise, haven’t truly lived aboard for a few months in foreign places, you may not know what majestic wonders your dinghy has in store for you. As a cruiser, your dinghy is your ticket to shore.  It is most often the vessel that carries you to a place you have never been before. It also brings you down, almost eye-level with the waters you are anchored in and often shows you for the first time the clarity of the water, the depth, the varied grass, rock, or sand that lies beneath you.  

The view at Little Harbour Cay in the Abacos 2018

It brings you closer to the marine life that is swimming, living, sleeping below you, even the Thalassophobian-creatures that might lurk beneath.  Phillip and I have seen starfish, reef sharks, and sea turtles, creatures very foreign to us at home, all while riding in the dinghy.  

Spotted via dinghy at Powell Cay in the Abacos 2017
Captured via dinghy at Manjack Cay, Abacos, 2017

Every time we pump up the dinghy and hop in to ride to a new shore I can feel my heart striking up a feisty chord.  The new-ness of the places we travel to is what we crave.  Phillip and I both have a passion for seeing, experiencing, eating, and immersing ourselves in things new.  And, it is often the dinghy that takes us there, to a new beach, where we walk a new shore, follow a new trail (sometimes after eight false starts), and find a new blue hole we have never seen before.  The feeling of experiencing something for the first time—a place, a song, a person, a dish, a creature, flower, scene, sight, smell. The newness of it all captivates us.  And, often it is all made possible solely by the dinghy.

Even in local, familiar anchorages, our dinghy offers us that 5 o’clock buzz around the anchorage, with a drink (better known as a “roadie”) in hand—always—where we stop boat-to-boat and catch up with, or meet for the first time, our eclectic, inspiring fellow cruisers out there.  

Picking up BaBaLu at our favorite home anchorage, Ft. McRee, for our costume-themed (Phillip is playing a sexy Captaint Stubing here) second annual Halloween Boozer Cruiser.

The dinghy is what enables us to connect with those around us, otherwise we would be isolated on the boat, never introducing ourselves to those around us, getting to know them, and letting them get to know us. In an anchorage, that all happens by dinghy.  

So, yes, while it is just Hypalon, valves, and glue … to some.  Our dinghy (lovingly named “Dicta” on Plaintiff’s Rest) is so much more.  The thrill of our dinghy ride into Hoffman’s Cay in the Berries to dive the blue hole made me realize how much I appreciate, and look forward to, the moment Phillip and I load into the dinghy and set off to a new place, and it inspired me to share with you all just how many roles—in addition to a magic carpet—that our dinghy plays for us.   

A conch-scavenging vehicle:

An any-reef, any-time scuba stop:

A protector from potentially-unfriendly foes : (

A keeper of gathered goodies:

A source of entertainment (pumping 7” of water out after a pour):

A source of more boat projects (they’re good for you, trust me – keeps you humble):

A provider of “whole-boat selfies” : ) Those are important!

A front row seat to some of the best sunsets we’ve ever seen:

A floating scaffold for doing hull-side (big) boat projects:

A good, safe practice boat for Captain Annie (who often gets the backwards right-left tiller function mixed up and bumps into things):

A source of yet-more boat projects (you can see how we stay pretty humble):

A source of yet-even-more entertainment (you can see how we stay happy):

And (just for fun) the subject for an aptly-titled, badass video from our scoot around Powell Cay in the Abacos in 2017. Enjoy!

The dinghy does all of this for us, and so much more. Dicta is such a crucial part of our transportation, connection, and overall cruising experience. Do you agree? Share in a comment what your dinghy means to you!

What Lurks Beneath? Overcoming My Thalassophobia at Hoffman’s Blue Hole!

I have a confession to make. I have a phobia—thalassophobia—or a unique form of it, perhaps.  Where Thalassophobia is the fear of what lies beneath you in a vast, deep body of water like the ocean, mine is limited to shallow bodies of water when the water is dark or murky and I cannot see what’s on the bottom.  I think the fact that the bottom is closer to me, 20 feet or less, is what scares me more than the deep ocean, because the dark creatures below are now within striking distance!  What the heck is down there?  This guy?

I don’t know.  Because I can’t see the bottom!  And, I’m way too creative to not start imagining all kinds of monstrosities awaiting me there.

And, I say my phobia is different because I have swam in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and nothing about it frightened me.

In the ocean, I guess I feel like whatever is down there is likely way, way, waaaayyy down there.  I’ll have plenty of time to see that monster coming to crawl back onto the boat.  But, when the bottom is just ten or so feet down, I have no hope of escaping. I’m only one tail/tentacle flap away from that guy!

What’s worse?  If I can feel the murky, muddy, unknown bottom on my feet but I can’t see it.  Bwwwummhhhuuh.  I just had goosebumps flow through me thinking about that. When my feet start sinking into a murky bottom, I flip the heck out!  Here’s what it probably looks like down there:

Here’s what I see down there. 

Imagine stepping on this guy … 

I have often been seen swimming, fully horizontal, in two-feet of water all the way to the shore because I don’t want to walk on the bottom.  Is anyone with me on this?  Am I crazy? Wait … Don’t answer that … 

But, I mention the phobia to share one fantastic victory!  My dive into the Blue Hole at Hoffman’s Cay in the Bahamas!  

Just you wait.  The real-live footage of my phobia is hilarious.  After Phillip and I finally found our flanges while replacing our raw water impeller, got the engine put back together, and found me a suitable shower shoe, albeit it non-Croc, it was time for us to shove off and leave Great Harbour Cay for the first time in six months.  Our baby girl had weathered exceptionally well there, even as Hurricane Dorian raged just over head, and it was time to reward her with another awesome cruising season!   Phillip and I had been looking forward to flying back to the boat for months, and it was all for this moment!  When we finally got our baby girl moving again!  Oh, and when I could wear bikinis all day every day for months!  Whoo-freaking-whoo!  Captain Annie even de-docked us like a boss and we headed out the very narrow cut into Great Harbour Cay that kept Plaintiff’s Rest so well protected this past season.  

Being out, the boat moving, the sails filled, for the first time in six months was exhilarating.  You know what this calls for …  That’s right. Sailing selfies!!