Bahamas!

Even though there have been many steps and places I have enjoyed in getting to this point, it does seem like we’ve arrived! Christmasy (at least how I have known it) it’s not; however, the occasional carol heard reminds me of what I’m missing. The only white stuff is warm and soft, found at the fringes of the crystal clear blue waters, and the only reason to shovel it is if you want to dig a hole or build a castle.
We arrived in Bimini this morning after a beautiful overnight passage across the Gulf Stream. There was no moon so the only lights were the stars and occasional cruise ship, lit up like the small cities they are. There was a glow on the western horizon from Florida and you could still tell where Miami was as we neared Bimini. Cleared customs, acquired our cruising permit and hoisted the Bahamas courtesy flag which should stay there for the next 100 plus days. Life is good!

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Ghost dolphins at the bow…overnight passages.

We are now safely in the Bahamas! Travis is napping after our all-night passage, Rachel is fishing off the dock with a newfound friend, and Shad is impatiently waiting for his dad to wake up and return to customs to get him a spear fishing license. I am showered and finally feeling awake after a lovely chat with the Mom of Rachel’s new friend.

We have had two overnight passages – a new thing for us. We were excited and apprehensive as we set out the first evening (to Key West from Marco Island). The first half of the night was amazing. As soon as it got dark we could see phosphorescence in the water. Soon after, at least 10 dolphins approached our boat and swam just in front of our bow for a long time. We couldn’t actually see the dolphins, but as they swam and played, they were perfectly outlined by a silvery blue glow from the phosphorescence. I think it may have been one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen! Added to all this, was a sky filled with stars.

After midnight, it became more difficult to maintain the feelings of awe and wonder! I found myself counting the minutes until my shift at the helm was done. Because the winds were light, we motored the whole night…and it was hard to sleep in the noisy, vibrating, diesel-scented cabin. By morning, I was very relieved to arrive in Key West, turn off the engine and crawl into bed for the morning.

I wasn’t excited to repeat the process last night…But the only way to arrive in Bimini during daylight is to make at least some of the passage at night. So, we left Islamorada, Florida at 4:00 pm yesterday. I slept a bit early in the evening, and then took the 10 pm to 1 am shift. This time I pulled out my headphones and listened to music as I kept watch and kept us on course. It made an incredible difference. I was listening to songs selected for us by Diana…many of which had lyrics pondering God’s great love for us, the majesty of his creation and his constant guiding presence. I felt my soul swell with love and gratitude – beautiful stars spread out endlessly above and over 2000 feet of water supporting us below. A song by Gungor contained the lament “How long must we wait” and as I gazed up at the sky and echoed this – “we love you so much – Why don’t you come for us?” – it felt like the heavens shouted back “I love you more!” How wonderful to know that my life, our destiny, lies in the hands of one who loves us so much more than we can ever love him!

So, it was a much different passage, my deep sense of God’s presence calming me as I tried to discern in the darkness how close approaching ships were (i.e. how close we were to death!).

We are very happy to be in the Bahamas. It is warm, sunny and the water is so clear, even in our marina, that we are seeing all kinds of sea life already. Once Travis wakes up it will be time to start exploring!

A Few Days In

(This post was written on December 9th. It is now the evening of December 10th and we are moored in Venice…the Florida one!)

I am excited to report that we have finally set sail from Tarpon Springs and are on our way to Miami. It was a lovely sunny first day on the water, complete with dolphins coming to our boat and swimming just in front of the bow for a minute. There is something special about wild creatures taking an interest in us humans. It feels like a hug or wink from God! Since then we have discovered that seeing dolphins is a regular occurrence in the Gulf, but so far not one that has lost its adrenaline inducing appeal.

Right now we are moored at the north end of Longboat Key, with high winds whistling around the boat. We may stay put for the day, or may decide to motor down the protected Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) instead of heading out into the open sea. We are using the time to get some school work done (blogging for me) and Travis is installing some speakers. We expect to take at least a week to work our way around to Miami. Then we will wait for the right weather to sail across the Gulf Stream to Bimini (in the Bahamas). We did not expect it to take nearly this long to get our boat ready to sail, so we will not be taking our time to explore the Florida coastline. We have to be in Nassau, Bahamas by New Year’s Eve because we are meeting family there on January 1st!

The kids and I moved onto the boat about two weeks ago to help get “Schemma” into ship-shape condition. Every night we would say “maybe we will be ready the day after tomorrow” and then the next day would introduce (or prolong) challenges for Travis to meet in preparing the boat. Technology has not been our friend and we are starting to experience the truth the joke: “What is a boat? A hole in the water into which you pour money!” I have spent quite a bit of time in stores collecting provisions. It is time consuming to shop in another country. Many of the items I want to buy are not on the shelves and there are many other items and brands that I have never heard of! It is surprising how different things are between Canada and the USA. Even when I find the same product it sometimes has a completely different taste! But I have managed to fill every nook and cranny available for stowage on the boat with provisions – so it is probably very good that I couldn’t find everything I was looking for.

One “good” problem we encountered was discovering a crack in our head (toilet) holding tank. Although, gross and messy to deal with, it has finally rid our boat of the unpleasant odour it has had since we purchased it. Travis had replaced hoses and tried all kinds of odour absorbing products with no results…and now we know why! So far, his patching is “holding” and for the first time ever we are odour free!

This is my second attempt at writing this post. Shad, Rachel and I had all written posts on the day we left our marina, only to have our computer freeze up and lose our work. Frustrating? Yes – and basically symbolic of how things have gone for us in setting up our technological communication and navigation systems! So, I will simply list a few other highlights I don’t feel like re-writing about :
– Two days of rollercoaster riding with our adventurous kids!
– Shadrach chipping off his front tooth – again. (we may get it fixed in Miami if there’s time. It is not causing him any pain, PTL)
– Taking my aunts and uncles sailing and shell collecting after they helped us park Sesame (our van) for the winter
– Finally playing the board game “Munchkin” with Shad (he had been requesting this daily)
– Taking the dinghy to walk the beach and pier in Clearwater our first night on the water.

So, in case you were starting to wonder, we are alive and well and feel like we have finally started the adventure we left home to experience.