One thing that is guaranteed on this trip. Whenever any of us feel like we are getting competent at any particular task, the Gods/Goddesses of irony and humility come along and smite us mightily about the heads and knock us back a step or two. Today was a small, but illustrative, example.
(And as a note–this was from last week, just publishing now)
The plan was to get up bright and early, or at least what passes for bright and early here in the Bahamas, meet the Barrett trio at 0830 and follow them in our dinghy to Shark Creek. 0830 was the magic time because this is about an hour(ish) before high tide and Shark Creek is apparently something that should be done close to high tide.1 This would give us enough time to get there and through so we could spend some time on Haines Cay Summit.
Now I was feeling pretty darn good about my dinghy skills. We had just spent weeks in Marathon using our dinghy every single day, multiple times a day and all of us were getting good at driving that dinghy around. What we should have realized was that we were good in the same way a elementary school kid is ‘good’ playing the violin compared to all the other kids around him. He/she can hold their head high when they saw out “Mary had a little lamb,” but put them in Carnegie hall and you find out what ‘good’ really is. Our puttering around and idle speed, back and forth between shore and our boat made us not ‘good.’ As we were about to learn.
So Joe, Carla and Ethan putter over to our boat at 0830. The day is overcast, windy and looks like rain but neither crew is daunted (the word of the day–use it three times). Jan, AJ, Lucky and I board our dinghy and we follow them out of the marina. Joe cranks up his engine (a 15 hp Yamaha) and they shoot up on plane. I crank open the throttle on our boat, the engine moans, then whines and we push a great amount of water in front of the bow of our boat, but cannot get on plane.
The last time we really had the opportunity to open up the dinghy with all of us aboard was in Canada in June/July. And we could get up on plane back then, although it did take a little time. But no matter what we tried today, we couldn’t get the boat to get up out of the water. We did a quick inventory of what was in the boat to see if there was any difference. We did have our 8 lbs anchor and rope. Maybe that was causing the problem. AJ has grown taller, maybe his extra 10-15 lbs was the problem. Or maybe it was the case that we have consumed too much junk food over the past eight months and the cumulative effect of crappy food and little exercise was weighing on the dinghy. Or a combination of all of the above.
Joe/Carla saw that we were struggling and stopped. As we got close, we went ahead and slowed down and turned to meet them. Which was a near disaster: By slowing down, we dropped our nose in the water and by turning, we ran bow first (which was pointed down) into a large wave and just like that our dinghy went from a craft that rides on the water to a submarine. The wave washed over us and left a foot of water in the bottom of our boat. If we weren’t heavy before, we certainly were now.
I commenced to bailing with our waterproof bag. You know, that thing that you keep your phone, wallet and camera in just in case you get wet to protect them. Lesson learned: If you take all of that stuff out, it works really well as an impromptu bucket. AJ jumped ship over to ride with Ethan (that kid has a remarkable sense of self-preservation) and once we got most of the water out, we went back underway.
Without AJ, we finally got up on plane (HAH! It was AJ!) and could hang with the S/V Mahi crew. We got to the entrance of the creek and immediately saw why this was a high-tide only endeavor2. The mangroves got closer and closer until it was just wide enough for our dinghy. And the bottom, which we could see clearly through the water, was RIGHT BELOW OUR BOAT! Like there was hardly any depth at all. If we weren’t with Joe/Carla, we certainly would have turned around and turned tail!
And here is where we learned the difference in moving a dinghy back and forth in a morning field and actually driving the thing through the mangroves. The creek runs pretty much north/south, but there are some small turns. And if one were a good dinghy driver, one would anticipate the turns so as not to jam their lovely wife into the mangroves. Repeatedly. If one were not a good dinghy driver, one would jam wife into mangroves making her hopping mad.3
We somehow made it through the narrow part and came out on the north side where it opened back up and deepen a bit and we picked up the pace. Off to Haines Cay Summit. We jammed our dinghies into a small opening on the side of the creek and headed up a trail to one of the tallest points on the island. Oooohs and aaaahs over the view and then off to the beach to find shells. After 30 minutes ashore, we who drove the dinghies were getting a bit anxious–tide was going out and it was shallow on the way in–didn’t want to get stuck–and we convinced everyone that we needed to leave. Back to the boats, but we took a short detour to turtle creek. Where turtles do indeed live.
We have seen turtles on this trip. On the rivers we saw the little ones who would sun themselves on the logs/rocks and throw themselves in the water when we came to close. When we were in Marathon, we went to a turtle hospital and saw some of the big ocean boys/girl turtles recovering from injuries. But we hadn’t seen any of the ocean turtles in the wild. Until the river. Where we saw a bunch of them and all the sighting went something like this:
Someone on the boats sees a dark, brow, round thing in the water an yells TURTLE and points down at where the thing is in the water.
We turn towards the turtle.
Turtle hears our engines, notices our boat, and sees our waving hands and thinks “not today.” And starts to swim away.
We turn to intercept turtle.
Turtle turns and puts on a bit more speed.
More telling “TURTLE!” and “CAN YOU SEE THE TURTLE?” and “Go FASTER SO WE CAN SEE THE TURTLE!” Throttle is opened and we adjust course and speed to intercept turtle on its new heading.
Turtle is fed up with the shenanigans. Directs “Warp speed Mr. Sulu.” And that brown circle in the water SHOOTS away from our boat at about 1,000 miles per hour. Leaving a trail of little bubbles of derisive laughter.
After fruitlessly aiming at five or six turtles, we head back down shark creek, repeating the ‘jamming of wife into the mangrove tree’ routing and head into the bay. Ahead of us is an old shrimp boat that obviously found some shallow water. Hard. And catastrophically. We went to check it out and it was pretty neat. Equally neat was the shark that was swimming around our dinghies. Which we again tried to chase and get a photo of, which it entertained for about 2 minutes. And then disappeared.
A good end to the morning. We headed back to the boat for some lunch.
1 Short aside here. Have you ever asked a question that at the time sounds like a reasonable question, but after you get a bit more experience you realize that it wasn’t so much? Joe was describing Shark Creek and said we need to get there at high tide. This was echoed in the nice glossy pamphlets that we got from the marina that says in BOLD LETTERS “Be sure to watch your time because you don’t want to be stuck coming back through Shark Creek at low tide.” I asked Joe if we really needed to go through at high tide, was it really that shallow? And Joe, to his credit, barely rolled his eyes when he said that yes. Its was necessary. As we would find out.
2 And why my earlier question was ridiculous.
3 As she would have every right to be. But wooooo…the language!!