We’ve now been in the Bahamas for a little over a month and already we’re closing in on Georgetown, the end of the line for many on a Bahamian cruise.
After passing through the Abacos at lightning speed, we made one of several attitude adjustments during our day-long voyage to the next island chain, Eleuthera. Though I didn’t think I had any expectations for what we would find when we got to the Bahamas, not knowing much about it in the first place, I was a bit surprised when my idyllic picture of what sailing to the islands should be did not immediately manifest itself. We moved the boat from island to island in search of just the right spot: a protected anchorage all to ourselves right in front of a pristine beach with good snorkeling on the banks side and surfing on the ocean side. All of this would be a peaceful walk down the road from a little village of pastel colored cottages, a stand selling fresh produce, and a casual bar with an amazing happy hour menu. (Also, the sun would always be shining and the wind would cease to blow as soon as we got there.) To be sure, we did find all of those things and they were lovely, we just did not find them all in one location. So we easily convinced ourselves to keep on searching. Maybe paradise was just around the corner at the next anchorage, and once we arrived there we would relax and stay awhile.
The stress of constantly moving and worrying about the boat was starting to wear on Jon. I was secretly quite happy to be making such great progress on our way South, but my giddiness fizzled a bit when we made the decision to leave the Abacos after spending only half a day in Hope Town, the first place that came close to my island ideal and the only place where surfing was mentioned in our guidebook. Faced with the prospect of paying for a mooring in order to be protected from the bad weather for as long as it lasted versus moving farther South while we had the chance, our inclination to keep moving (and save money) won out, though not without a healthy dose of regret.
And that is how we made the commitment to slow down and relax as we pulled up on Eleuthera and the all-weather anchorage of Hatchet Bay. But we made it only about 100 yards on shore before I felt we had made a big mistake choosing that spot to spend days on end. As our friends, “the two others,” said, it’s a little third-worldy. They had meant that in a good way, but with my mind still focused on picture-perfect paradise, I was not really feeling it. We went back to the boat for dinner and I stared into space for an hour, wondering exactly what it was that I wanted out of traveling if I felt so let down by a little third-worldyness. Because isn’t the whole point to experience new and different ways of living? Still all I could think was, where is that damned perfect island I’ve been counting on finding at the end of this sailing rainbow? Then I would feel ashamed of myself for being whiny and wanting to live in a Sandals commercial. And round and round we go.
Jon then sagely decreed: even though it isn’t what we had expected, we should go see and experience what is here and enjoy whatever that is. Afterall, we’ve come all this way. Wait, which one of us is the yoga teacher? Knowing good advice when I hear it and committed to letting the captain relax for a few days, I quickly adopted this as our motto (later reminding Jon of his own wise words as needed) and that has made all the difference.
The next day we had a fantastic time, looking for caves but finding the beach instead, sticking out my thumb to hitch my first ride, and meeting a bunch of friendly people at the more happening town up the road. The next couple of days were just as good. We woke up each morning (and sometimes in the middle of the night) to roosters crowing, and listened to the weather forecast over the radio. We found and toured the cave, went surfing, and took our new friends on vacation from Indiana, Anji and Chad, on a sunset sail surrounded by dolphins. When the weather was right we moseyed down to the next harbor, Rock Sound, for a couple more days on Eleuthera before again braving the deep(er) sea, headed for the Exuma chain.
The Exumas are home to seemingly all of the most popular tourist draws in the Bahamas – the hungry iguanas, the Land and Sea Park, swimming pigs, a wrecked drug trafficking plane, the 007 grotto – and we’ve seen them all. The actual sailing from island to island has been nearly perfect. We’ve had a decent number of days of easy beam reaches and quick downwind runs, never lasting more than a few hours before we’re settled at the next island, ready to explore. We’ve enjoyed plenty of calm anchorages, secluded beaches, and untouched natural beauty, and where we’ve been stopping there’s not much to buy, so we’re doing very well on the budget! The lack of all-weather anchorages has kept us on the move, but we’re not feeling the same urgency that we’ve known before. We’re currently waiting out the latest undesirable weather before we land in Georgetown. While there we’ll reprovision as best we can for the next phase of heading out into the great unknown (to us), where we will encounter our next set of ridiculous expectations.
As demonstrated by the guy who told us he thought it was absolutely wonderful that the grocery store was out of bread, paradise is in the eye of the beholder, and I think we’re almost there.