After a difficult 12-plus hour crossing from Grand Bahama to Florida, I was shell shocked by my reentry into the United States. So crowded; so congested; so noisy. After finding a spot to anchor just outside the ICW near a highway and a railroad bridge, I followed the anchor off the bow, only to be harshly reminded that I wouldn’t be able to see it land on the bottom. Why did we come back?
A few months have passed since that spring day. Calypso has made her way up the ICW to the Chesapeake. My temporary life as a “cruiser” is over, and I’ve painfully reentered the working world. But, at least on weekends, I’ve not let go of boat bumming. And as I’ve spent some glorious weekends, I’m reminded once again how lucky we Bay sailors are to cruise here.
The water is not as clear, and there are no deserted white beaches, but some things here are better than in the Bahamas.
One of the best parts of cruising in the Bahamas was sharing the experience with friends from home.
As I put together photo albums, I’m reminded of the mad dashes we had to make to find a suitable place to stay for a cold front. In the area of the Exumas where we spent most of our time, there were only a handful of pricey marina slips to find shelter, and a few anchorages to which you’d have to arrive early to find a tenable spot.
Meanwhile, in the Bay, if you’re not in a marina, there are scores of hidey holes offering protection for every direction of wind if you happen to be caught out in a blow. As mad dashes go, most cruisers were highly aware of the mailboat schedule and on what days the small number of poorly stocked grocery stores in the Bahamian Out Islands would be resupplied. That was the day when the dinghy docks were crowded, and people hovered around the store doors, hoping to get that precious head of cabbage or some recognizable meat that hasn’t yet become hopelessly freezer burned.
Be late or lose out.
Of course, you wasted dinghy fuel getting to the store at your peril. At one point, the weather had delayed the supply boat, and the most central marina had no gasoline for a few weeks. We rationed what little we had left, using our kayak and paddleboard to get around until we could make our way to a more distant marina to refuel. We never have to worry about that here; if anything, we struggle with the breadth of options for restocking or refueling. It’s not that I really missed stuff when we were in the Bahamas.
I had provisioned and stocked carefully before leaving the U.S., so we’d never go hungry or wanting. But the remoteness of the Out Islands was both a blessing and a curse. One of my goals of going cruising was to get away from the hurried pace of life at home.
While we’d managed that, at times, I missed the feeling of connection and security that home offers. A good WiFi connection was more sought after than fresh tomatoes. Finding medical assistance when I suffered an eye injury took two days of travel out of our way.
Most of the connections we made with other cruisers were transitory and fleeting. While we made some friendships that will survive this chapter of our lives, and we were never short of company for a glass of wine and a sunset, it turns out that what I missed most were my friends. I had the adventure of a lifetime, but coming home to the people I care about has made returning to the “real world” worthwhile.
by Eva Hill