May 6, 2014

A Sleeping Tiger

"The real spiritual progress of the aspirant is measured by the extent to which he achieves inner tranquility." Swami Sirvananda

The beauty of sailing the Bahamas is that there are many routes where you can sail pleasantly and well protected on what is referred to as "the banks".  These are the more shallow waters on the lee side of the all the islands, and they extend for miles on miles among thousands of small cays, or islands.

Typically, waters in the banks are more calm due to their shallow depths and are more protected due to the shield of the islands… these "banks" waters are quite clear and colorful as the sun's rays shine through like quicksilver.

 Depths can range from as little as 1' to 10' for miles on miles…  You will see starfish smiling up at you from the sea floor as you cross these types of waters known as the Banks.

However, there are times when you just can't get from Point A to Point B by sailing the banks… and you have no other choice but to sail on "the outside" as the photos below will show.

"Outside" sailing is basically crossing an ocean, and often referred to as "blue water" sailing. The water offshore will be extremely deep in that it drops off like a shelf just a couple miles off the rugged Bahama shorelines that face the open sea.  

Sudden depths of 1000-2000' are not uncommon.  The main risk of sailing on the outside is the ever present chance of calm seas turning to high seas and turbulent conditions developing from wind and current.  Swells created in a sea with a 2000' depth have no bottom to level them out, and then mother ocean can just do whatever she pleases...

Lucky for me, the seas for today's "outside" trip from Spanish Wells and Royal Island to the Abacos chain was rather placid…. more like a sleeping tiger.  Instead of crossing a raging open blue sea, it was more like motoring across a calm blue waterbed for 50 miles … soft and wide undulations that went on as far as the eye could see… I say be thankful, and don't stir the tiger.  

But as calm as the conditions were on this day, one could still sense the immense potential that could rise up at any minute… Even on this calm day, vast ranges of open water would slowly move in motion, rock and sway, with long distances and extended time periods between the soft swells of a blue sea… see video below.

 … no land in site, no birds around, no people, no sounds… only the occasional sprig of sea weed in my path and the skimming of a flying fish atop the water kept me company... Only the crossing of one freighter ship would give any indication of life anywhere but aboard Glory Days for this leg of the journey.   I loved it. 

I'll always remember this crossing, because I think the tiger spared me… She spared me a piece of her rage and exchanged it for a small window view of her grandeur while  she was napping at ease…  I know there will be a day when I will be forced to pass through deep blue cobalt colored waters like these in totally different conditions… but for now, I will gladly take the slumber of the sea as I tip toe quietly under the nose of a sleeping tiger.

This freighter was the only vessel I saw all day… I am glad to pass her in daylight… night visions can be difficult to gauge.
 It would be a 12 hour day of crossing water like this… for hours I would stare out in awe...
 Thank God for a dependable diesel engine that would glide me across these prismic waters… the purr of her engine kept me company… it would be a relaxing day of reading, playing music, writing, cooking, snoozing, and sunning along the way.

 These photos were taken about 30 miles offshore… I know they all may look similar… but each was very different to me… clouds come, clouds go… a slight breeze would tickle my nose, then be gone again.

 At one point my engine appear to over heat… the alarm buzzer came on as I was stretched out comfortably in the cockpit… 

At first, I was startled for a while knowing that an engine failure would mean I would have no choice but to wait and wait and wait until some whisp of wind would finally appear to blow me to my destination… 

thankfully, there was no problem with the engine because I had mistakenly triggered the heat sensor myself when a bottle of suntan lotion had become wedged between me and the trigger button for the sensor while I was dozing off… that's what snoozing in the cockpit will do if you are not alert to it all…
 It was about that same time, that I was thrilled to hear a familiar voice from Wind Dancer calling me on the VHF radio… My ears perked up like a jack rabbit to hear someone "out there" calling my name.  By this time I was about 18 miles from Little Harbor where my friends Ray and Wanda were hailing me from… In about 3-4 more hours, I would be sitting at their dinner table aboard Wind Dancer.
 Here's a couple of short videos that seem to capture the moment…

 Quietly creeping across her path...
 Occasionally I would open the head sail just to see if I could catch a small breath of wind that might add a knot to my course… no such luck…. it was not meant to be. Embrace the calm I told myself.

 It all worked out in perfect timing…  12 hours ago I had departed Royal Island with the first ray of dawn's light, and here I was entering the pass as the sun begin to set… As I threaded the needle between two reefs, I entered the protected waters of the banks with Little Harbor just to the south of me… 
 This hollow structure high atop a hill, served a beacon to lead me in.  There was white foam dancing on the exposed reefs off my starboard side… I can only imagine the challenges previous mariners faced long before the age of marine charts and GPS plotters that guide you in nowadays.
So long Exumas.  

I had now entered the entrance to the long chain of Bahama islands known as the Abacos. It is too soon to draw any conclusions of this next group of islands… but I feel a sense of welcome and a sense of relief knowing I have crossed another section of blue water to reach the comfort of the banks once again.

A day trip tomorrow to a community called Hopetown would provide a gentle respite for Glory Days while I travel back to the States to care for a loved one.

Stay tuned… the next post will be about Hope.

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