My wife and I have at 46-foot sailboat (Defiant) docked in Oriental, North Carolina, that we’ve been getting ready to take across the Atlantic and into the Med. Only thing is, you got to cross in May or June when the Atlantic is the calmest and we didn’t get the boat ready to go on time this year, so my wife says there’s this boat going she heard about and we can get a ride. She said it had an experienced captain and it was a Coast Guard approved vessel with a good crew. That’s important, a good crew. We could find out on the trip if when we get out of the sight of land we get freaked out, or we get sea sick, that kind of thing, before trying a crossing in Defiant. So I says, what is this boat, and she says don’t worry, it’s a fine boat, first in its class, and she says she wants it to be a surprise, and it’s all set. I want to know if it’s a sloop or a ketch or a multihull, that kind of thing, how long is it, blah, blah, but she just keeps saying I’m going to love it.
I noticed she’s packed my black suit, the one I bought so in case I croak I’d have something spiffy to be buried in. I ask why she was taking my suit and she said I’d see soon enough. Wives are aways being mysterious. If you could figure out how women think and write a book about it, you’d be rich as a politician.
So we take the red-eye to New York and get a cab–you know what an adventure that is–and we head for the harbor. The boat is gonna sail that very day, she says, and I say how about our provisions, life jackets, and stuff and maybe I should talk to this captain and find out if he really is up to snuff. She says I can check out the boat and if I think it’s not sea worthy, we can just go back home. I says you bet we will. I’m getting a bad feeling about this.
So the cab pulls up to this metal building and there’s this great big giant boat sitting there. In fact, it’s the Queen Mary 2, the biggest ocean liner in the world at 1132 feet, my wife says. Then she adds that the Titanic was but 882 feet 9 inches. My wife is a great one for the facts.
So I says, but where’s this yacht we’re sailing on? This is it, the Queen, she says. Isn’t she beautiful?
I’m stunned. My wife smiles and says she got us a great room on fifth deck with a balcony. Being stunned, I hardly notice what happens next: the luggage search, the going up the gangplank, the friendly crew members in uniforms neat as Navy brass, smiling like monkeys on marijuana.
It’s like you’re in a swanky movie theater with red carpets and chandeliers. We roll our luggage down this half-mile-long hallway and find our stateroom with this little balcony overlooking the dock five stories below. Gives me a queazy feeling, being so high.
Where is this thing going? I ask. South Hampton, England, she says. It rains there, I says. I brought your umbrella, she says.
Guys know when their woman has them trapped. Guys know if you fight the trap, you’ll only get your foot chewed up.
How long is this going to take, I ask.
A week, she says.
So what are we going to do for a week with no sails to put up, no food to cook, no weather reports to check, no course to set in the GPS?
We’re going to do lots of stuff.
Like what stuff?
Like go to balls and waltz the night away.
And we’re going to dress for dinner. Since you don’t have a tux, your black suit you plan to be buried in will have to do.
So we dress for dinner and eat in a dining room that seats 1000 people, served by an army of smiling, bowing staff. The menu reads like something you’d get in a swanky restaurant in Manhattan. Escargot, pine nuts in the salad, steak tartare, blackened crawdads. What the hell is a crawdad? The escargot tasted like garlic butter and was not bad till I found out it was snails. The company at dinner was great, the English guy next to me liked to argue American politics. I tried to explain we had to have a war every eight years because the ammunition had a shelf life of 96 months. Use it or lose it. The guy turned red and twitched a lot during our discussions.
We took a walk every day on the promenade deck. And yes, we danced at the balls (the Black and White Ball and the Royal Ascot Ball) until my feet hurt and we went to lectures about the stars, the Titanic sinking and crap like that. Played trivia games in the pub. When not eating in the dining room wearing your burial suit you can eat at the 24-hour buffet with 128 kinds of desserts. I gained six pounds, eleven ounces.
After a while of the roll of the ocean and the endless sky and sea, you become sort of hypnotized in a nice way and my wife had to squeeze it out of me that I was having a great time.
That’s the way wives are. They make you do stuff you don’t want to do, then they make you say you liked it.
Anyway, next time, we cross in Defiant. I mean it.
Jeffrey "Hammerhead" Philips
Last Thursday was one of those August days that topped 90 degrees, the humidity hovered just as high, no rain on the horizon, thus a good day to get wet. Kitty and I headed to Peanut Island for some snorkeling in the “kiddy pool”. Yeah, I know, the fins are overkill, but they are a throw-back to my days as a dive guide. However, with these fins, one flick of the ankle, and I’m halfway to the first set of rocks.
Kitty and I entered the summer-heated water about thirty minutes before high tide. With the clean Gulf Stream flowing in, clarity was great, and a mask was not required. This place is special. Even at high tide, the maximum depth is about waist deep and the water as clear as the gin and tonics at the Tiki bar. A person could just wade around the rocks to observe the fish. Several species will swim to the surface to eye you as you eye them.
The east wind caused the ocean to have two to three foot seas and to blow the Moon Jellys into Lake Worth inlet and the snorkeling area. These transparent creatures are common in the south Florida waters. Usually more at spring time, so it was a treat to see them on this hot August day. When studied closely - don’t stick your face into their saucer-shaped dome - the rim has a pink tint. Sometimes blue.
The four daisy shaped outlines visible in the dome are actually the reproductive organs. Nothing like exposing yourself. But over the years on Peanut Island, women have tossed off their bikini tops, drunk men have dropped their bottoms, so I guess it’s OK for these jellys to moon the swimmers.
Silver Porgys eating a Sea Wasp
At the second pile of rocks from the north, I encountered hundreds of Silver Porgys. These fish love to stalk you and peck at your leg hairs. A little pesky at times, but isn’t that one of the reasons to go diving or snorkeling, interact with the sea life? This fish resembles the Spottail Pinfish. The only way I can tell them apart is that the black spot on the pinfish goes completely around the base of the tail and on the Porgy, it is just a mark.
These porgies were having a feast. Several Sea Wasps floated into the area. I always heard these cnidarians were highly toxic. I’ve seen swimmers bump into them and get painful welts. Some ended up with difficulties in breathing and visited the ER. I guess no one ever told the porgies that. They’d swim in, two, three, five, fish at a time and nip the gelatin body. The goo must be tasty, because the fish wouldn’t stop.
Usually a fish hits its prey once or twice, engulfs it or moves on. Not these five inch monsters. Again and again they hit their target. I think one guy ate so much he doubled in size.
Such is life around the rocks at Peanut Island. Every time I visit this area, I find something new.
Sunday, July 31, 2011
The seas had built throughout the night and with nothing but whitecaps on the horizon, it looked like it would be a wet and bouncy ride if we motored home today. From past experience of doing the Technicolor yawn over the side of the boat, I suggested we stay an extra day and see some sights. Everyone agreed.
Kitty and I hitched a ride to the Rand Nature Centre (Bahamian way of spelling “center”) which is one of the 26 parks in the Bahamas. This area was created in 1969 and is a 100 acre pine forest.
Rand Nature Center - Orchid
Turning off the main two-lane paved road, we bumped down a dusty, single lane, hardpan alley to arrive at the Nature Center. Inside is a great display of the geological history of Grand Bahama Island as well as the settling of the coral island. Kitty and I easily spent an hour gazing at the colorful hand drawn and photographic displays. Plus, the day was hot and the A/C in this block building was very cool.
Stepping outside to follow the five-foot wide grass nature trail, the sun bore through the canopy of tree branches causing us to become dewy. Not walking more than a dozen steps we were overwhelmed with the scents of blooming orchids. The sweetness brought images that we had stepped into some sort of a fairy land.
Once beyond the flowering plants, the smells of the pine trees became stronger. The trees looked like the slash pine in Florida, but they are actually a different species, the Bahamian Pine. The trail is a twenty minute hike unless you linger. We had to take a whiff of every flower, photograph the unusual and pretty, and had lunch overlooking a turtle pond. We stretched our stroll to over two hours.
Grand Bahama Island - Tiki bar
That created a good thirst. What to do? Head to the nearest Tiki bar. And that’s what we did.
Jeffrey making friends with the cook
Rum punches and conch fritters were in order. I love conch fritters.
Waiting on our food and drinks, the waitress told me it was BBQ night. Laid out in the black, cylindrical style cookers were some of the meatiest ribs I had ever seen. They looked so good over the simmering coals. I had to have a rack.
We had promised Carol and Walter that we’d be back in time for supper, so I thanked the cook, woofed down the ribs and Kitty and I headed back to the condo.
Grand Bahama Island - Walter grilling steaks
Rum of the Bahamas
For our last night in the Bahamas, Walter decided to grill some steaks, big fat steaks. And since we’re in the Bahamas, it was decided to have some Bahamian rum to compliment the meat.
After finishing off the bottle of “Fire in the Hole”, it’s best not to describe what went on in the bedroom. Let’s just say that was also a prefect end to a great time in the Bahamas.
Grand Bahama Island - Homeward Bound