My sister in law, Lee, decided she was not going to be left behind when my brother and sister, David and Colleen, agreed to help us sail the boat from Turks and Caicos to Florida. It was a 450 nautical mile trip over 3 weeks with at least two overnight sails. Lee is less than enthusiastic about travelling in general and I admired her courage in taking this on as her first sail. I imagined a few sleepless nights for her back in Canada and I would have felt the same way if this had been my first sail. By the end of the trip, we were teasing her that we would be seeing her as the keynote speaker at the Miami boat show. Her session title, “Gale, Shmale: You too can fly the spinnaker at 25 knots.” Her theme, the faster the better.
Within a few days, Lee was keeping track of water depth by watching colour changes in the shallow waters, taking the helm and feeding wind and boat speed information to the crew, and keeping an eye on sails for gybing potential. On a rocky rolly ride, she had her head in the lower galley cupboards looking for ingredients for supper, followed by a relaxing time reading her book. I couldn’t fathom doing either with my queasy stomach. Two to three metre seas in the Gulf Stream didn’t phase her.
What I liked most about sharing time with Lee was that she appreciated what we love about sailing. Being outside and watching the skies, water, and wildlife are what drew us to this life and Lee shared our passion. While David, Colleen, Craig, and I snorkelled and swam, Lee relaxed on the boat and even grew to tolerate wet and windy dinghy rides.
One of our favourite snorkel adventures was Thunderball Grotto at Staniel Cay, a limestone dome inside an island with abundant fish and corals, accessable at low tide. Known for a scene in 1960s James Bond film Thunderball, the dome was teeming in colours and light from the upper openings. We circumnavigated the island under water and saw mounds of coral cities hiding moray eels and 18 inch spiny lobsters.
Staniel Cay is also famous for swimming pigs who paddle right out to dinghies and are known to climb right in for food. We were graced by a visit but they snorted in disgust and turned around when they realized we only had a few carrots.
A short day sail north from Staniel is Warderick Wells, the headquarters of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. As a protected area, the park provides a limited number of mooring balls and miles of snorkelling and hiking. We were held up by weather for four days in the line of sailboats that hover between the shore and a mile wide sandbar that is ankle deep at low tide. More snorkelling and island hiking occupied our time and we all agreed that this was a trip highlight.
Our last overnight sail took us out to deeper waters in the Tongue of the Ocean, the deep trench between arms of the Great Bahama Bank, and around the north end of Bimini Island to our anchorage in the south. Glimpses of dolphins and trails of green sparkled bioluminescent creatures behind our transom at night continued to captivate and delight us.
David, Colleen, and I don’t have the chance to spend much time together. Three weeks with them on Alberta Crewed affirmed how grateful I am to be their older, albeit bossy sister. They are kind, gentle souls and I appreciate their humour and zest for life. They carry on a lineage of people who look for the good in others and who care about all living creatures. I treasured every minute with them and watched and listened carefully for what they had to teach me. I am honoured and humbled to have them and their spouses and children in my life. But just because they're all grown up with families doesn't mean they don't need me to boss them around.