For me, there’s a certain rhythm to traveling by boat; an ebb and flow of movement that requires periods of stillness to balance out my universe.
Whenever we’ve stayed too long in any given harbor, I start itching to unfurl the sails and make headway towards the sights, sounds and smells of a distant, foreign land…any land. And I always feel relieved when we start moving again, like I’ve scratched a hard-to-reach itch.
But then, after several days of constant movement, sleeping for 3 to 4 hours at a time and operating at a 30-degree angle, all I want to do is park our floating home in a still harbor for while. Just to be still.
Then my satisfaction ebbs, and after weeks of squeezing sight-seeing in between boat repairs, I start itching again for the quiet solitude that comes with manning the helm on a beam reach in 15 knots of wind. And the pattern repeats itself…
After three weeks in George Town, I started to feel that familiar itch again, though I should have felt nervous about embarking on what would be our longest passage to date (240 nautical miles from Long Island to French Cay, Turks and Caicos). But perhaps George Town had numbed my nerves; I was so eager to move on, I would have sailed out into a storm just to gain some distance.
Luckily, that wasn’t necessary, as we’d watched the weather carefully and made plans with our friend Morgan on s/v Senara to sail together to the Dominican Republic as soon as the winds clocked round to the north. And together we agreed on a course to French Cay, where we hoped to anchor and rest for a few days until the winds could take us further.
The night before our departure, though, I dreamed I was on a trampoline, being launched into the air by Ryan’s old rugby teammates, who were jumping up and down near my head. Then I woke up and realized the V-berth was my trampoline and it was the boat that was bouncing, not a bunch of rugby players.
Apparently, I was the only person who got any sleep that night. Ryan woke up at 1 am when unexpected winds turned Calabash Bay into a washing machine, and Morgan spent the night resetting his anchor every few hours as he dragged closer and closer to Hideaway.
As tired as we were, though, the sooner we got out of the rolling waves and set our sails to a beam reach towards French Cay, the better off we would be. So, as Hideaway’s bow was lifted and yanked underwater while Ryan held on and screamed into the wind and spray, we wrestled the anchor on board and gunned the engine out of the harbor.
Just as we expected, once we rounded the headland and trimmed our sails for a beam reach, the winds calmed down to a sane 10 knots and we hummed along the glassy waters at a comfortable 4.5 knots. All I had to do was set the autopilot and sit back with a cup of tea and some podcasts to entertain me through my night watch.
Except the winds didn’t continue to blow from the northwest, as forecasted. They started blowing from the northeast, which meant it became harder and harder to point Hideaway towards French Cay. So, after 24 hours, we checked in with Morgan and decided rather than motor, we would head further south towards Little Inagua, an uninhabited island at the bottom of the Bahamas chain. That way, we could continue to sail on a beam reach and we’d still get a few days’ rest on anchor while we waited for the winds to come around to the north again.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned on this trip through the Bahamas, it’s that smooth sailing only happens when you give up control and go where the wind wants to take you, when it wants to take you. If you’re rigid about your schedule and your desired stops, you may find yourself beating into bad weather, causing you and your boat a great deal of stress.
So it seems appropriate that, as we tried to depart the Bahamas, we were forced to alter our course and sail to one last stop in this beautiful island chain for the sake of a peaceful journey.
As the saying goes, “You can’t always control the wind, but you can control your sails.”
The only reason we found ourselves at Little Inagua was because the wind took us there. And, to me, that’s as good a reason as any.
For more pictures of Turf to Surf sailing the Bahamas, visit our Photo Albums on Facebook.