Great Exuma Adventures, Part I

We have spent the last three weeks either anchored or docked in Great Exuma, Bahamas. This is the longest time we’ve spent in one location on the boat, if you don’t count Florida. (Maybe we should, but I don’t because so much of our time there was spent on the dock, working on the boat.) These last three weeks we’ve explored land and sea, met new people, gone to church on the beach, and hosted friends and family. So there’s a lot to catch up on! Let’s get started.

You’ve already read some about our first week in George Town (capital of Great Exuma). I mentioned Starfish Beach, so will share a photo from there. Apparently there used to be a lot of starfish there, hence the name; we only found one, but he was big! Maybe he muscled all the rest out.

Don’t worry – no starfish were harmed in the taking of this photo

Easter Sunday was notable for two reasons. One, we worshipped at Beach Church. Beach Church is a George Town cruisers’ tradition – it’s been going on seasonally for many years, roughly November though Easter. All are invited, and it’s a simple yet meaningful time of worship, fellowship, singing, prayer, and message. There’s a choir (you can join by showing up 30 minutes early to practice the songs), elders, and a statement of faith. We loved it. It must have been established in the 70’s, because we sang a mix of newer songs (10,000 Reasons) and much older (Pass It On). And every service ends with all attendees standing in a circle singing The Lord’s Prayer. The whole experience reminded me of my high school Baptist youth group days.

The other reason Easter stood out was that our friends Dan and Meaghan came to see us! I had a leg of lamb in the freezer, which was perfect for our Easter dinner, but before we sat down to eat Meaghan was eager to hit the water. So we all donned our snorkel gear, broke out the paddle boards, and jumped off the boat. I’d been watching local boats bring visitors to snorkel maybe 50 yards off our bow, so we swam over to see what we could find. It was a reef! Between Gratitude and the beach, with some lovely coral and friendly fish. A great start to our visit.

The next day we took Dan and Meaghan out for a sail. We had a nice wind and relatively calm seas, and we didn’t have to point the boat toward any particular destination. Ideal for sailing! We weighed anchor and left the harbor for half the day. What made our time especially sweet to me was Meaghan’s genuine curiosity and interest in all the aspects of sailing – anchoring, hoisting the main, unfurling the jib, reading the wind, trimming the sails, navigating, maneuvering. It was a real pleasure to introduce our friends to the pleasures of sailing. We even got to turn off the engines and use only wind power for the majority of our trip.

Dan and Meaghan were AWESOME boat guests! They love the water!

One sobering thing about our sail was passing by a cut between two small cays where another sailboat had wrecked just the night before. The boat was saved from total loss by a local rescue crew made up of volunteers. They were a French catamaran with outdated charts that showed a clear passage where there were CLEARLY, VISIBLY shallow depths and sharp reefs. If they had arrived in daylight, they probably would have been fine, but they did not and simply trusted the chart. It was a good lesson for us. Sometimes you just can’t avoid arriving in a new place at nighttime, but we make every effort to avoid it. This boat was fortunate – they were damaged, but because of the quick rescue response the damage was not beyond repair.

Our time with Dan and Meaghan also included diving with Dive Exuma. We were scheduled to visit a tugboat wreck and Stingray Reef, but were told when we arrived that choppy seas might prevent us from visiting the reef. So we set off knowing that it would be a bumpy ride. Turns out that didn’t bother me – until we hit the water. We were wearing new gear, and the waves were high and fast, and I hadn’t been diving since last summer. All I can say is that I panicked! Everything I knew about descending safely just left my brain, and I got scared. Andy and Dan were ahead of me, already under the water, so I swam back to the boat. At first I thought maybe I could get some help from the dive master, but by the time I reached the boat I was hyperventilating and in no shape to make a calm descent.

So I sat out the wreck dive. It was disappointing, but definitely the right decision. Andy worried about me the whole time he was below, which made me sad, but I was glad he and Dan got to dive together. And as we left the wreck site, I began to think about when I could schedule another dive, soon – in the spirit of getting back into the water quickly so that my fears did not spiral out of control. I love diving, and I would not want to let one incident rob me of something I really enjoy. Fortunately, the dive master made a judgment call that the seas had calmed enough for us to do the second dive. This time, I kept my head and made it down to the reef just fine. We saw some nice coral and fish, but the real value to me was the chance to remember that diving is fun, not scary, and I have what it takes to enjoy it.

We dubbed this “Redemption Dive.” Thanks to Dan T for the photo.
One of the many rewards of scuba – seeing a whole new world underwater

The next day we said goodbye to Dan and Meaghan, which made me sad but not despondent. Our time on the water is definitely richer with friends, but I also knew that my mom would be aboard in just a couple of days, so that made our parting a little easier. I’ll share all about Mom’s visit in the next post.

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