Friends for the holidays

We have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of our friends ever since we found out they were coming a few weeks ago… but the last few days have been torture. Even several hours before their arrival we simply stared at the entrance of the marina awaiting their car and after we got the text that they had landed we stood on the top of the boat watching…somehow forgetting that it’s almost an hour cab ride from the airport.

To say we were giddy with excitement would be an understatement.
Finally they arrive we throw some hugs and all is right in the world. The next week was sheer bliss as we reconnected, caught up, told stories and just generally had a blast soaking them up!

We spent the first night in the marina and at the beach club/pool letting them get their sea legs after a crazy long flight, then midway through the next day made our way back to Rose Island to show then the bay we stayed at a few days earlier.

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We all settled settle into living aboard, soaked up the sun, would leave the boat to dinghy over to one of the reefs just outside the bay for a bit of snorkeling and fly fishing, and only went ashore to check out what seemed like our own private beach, where we ended up returning with lunch and drinks and spent our day feeling like we’d stumbled upon paradise. In fact, maybe we had.

Rose turned out to be the perfect intro for guests. Far enough away from the hustle and bustle of Nassau that you’d hardly know its there (other than the occasional tourboat dropping the cruise shippers off at Sandy Toes). We even had wifi most of the time from the bar on the other side of the island, which meant some year-end work and calls could get done as needed.

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A few days later we hopped back around the north side (this time with far better conditions), passed by Gilligan’s Island and went out through the cut to deep water to try our hand at grabbing a fish. Chad reeled in a bluefin on the handline and we called it a day feeling good that dinner was all lined up!

Since things were calm on the north side, we decided to spend a few days at green cay to mix up the scenery. SO glad we did as this ended up being one of our better spots for its anchorage and for entertainment. We had read that tour boats come in here all day to let tourists snorkel with the turtles. The number of boats coming and going and anchored here during the day was ridiculous but all but another sailboat or two would leave well before sunset and we’d have the place to ourselves again.

We all headed out to snorkel the reef, saw a school of jack directly under the boat and Chad decided to stay onboard and try catching some fish. I speared a grouper and by the time I made my way back to the boat they were finally starting to pull some fish in on the lines as well. For a while right around sundown the fish seemed to be flowing and as they would pull them in I would clean them on the sugarscoop and then we began to notice some big movement in the water.

Not sure if it was the school of jack under the boat or the scraps we were throwing in but before long 4 good sized reef sharks were circling the boat. I have a huge passion for sharks, but still a bit of an eery feeling to see them feasting in the same waters we just climbed out of! We watched them until after dark and then cooked up our little feast of grouper, snapper and jack.

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The next day we all woke up early to go snorkel near the beach before the tour boats arrived. Easy to see why the boats come in because before long we were swimming with turtles over the grassy bottom and having a blast doing so. We headed back to the boat just as the onslaught of tourists arrived and we decided our day would best be spent at the beach bar just across from us on the north side of Rose Island.

We all piled into the dinghy and made our way over to Footprints and couldn’t have been more thrilled to hear the Caribbean Country playing and to see a volleyball net all setup before we even stepped onshore and anchored the dinghy in the sand.

Our day couldn’t have been better as we toasted our friends being here to enjoy this with us, played some volleyball (just like old times!) and frolicked in the sand/water. So good!
In fact, it seems somehow they just kept playing our song and leaving got harder and harder as the day went on…

We finally make our way back to the boat and somehow decide we need more fish, so despite the somewhat inebriated state we head out in the dinghy to the reef. I go overboard with snorkel and spear, Chad mans a line from the boat so that I can direct him to schools of fish and Jen steers the dinghy. Seemed like the perfect plan to score another fresh meal.

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Started out just that way... I speared a snapper, waved at the boat and they came over to grab the fish just as Chad hooked another one on the line. I point to a large mutton snapper so they can throw a line towards it and go back to my search underwater. A while later I’m thrilled to see some antennae and realize we found our first lobster!! I come up and wave at the boat with one arm to get them to bring me the net and “tickle stick” but they don’t seem to see me. No worries I think, so drop my spear near the rock he’s hiding under and start looking around for more just in case.

I round a large coral head and freeze in my tracks as I spot a reef shark who was heading straight towards me but spun around well out of range. Didn’t matter… sent my heart rate flying and I popped above water waving vigorously with both hands (our planned sign for shark in the water and to get me ASAP) to get them to come get me. Im waving and waving but they don’t seem to see me and are now pretty far off on the horizon past the end of the island. I try a few more times but decide to head back to the area of my spear and pay attention to the waters around me rather than continuing to look for food.

Off to my right I see the shark again. I hadn’t realized how big he was the first time. I love these creatures, but wasn’t thrilled to be hunting in the same small area as this guy. I’m above water again in an instant and waving both arms above me. Still nothing.
”What are they doing?” I think to myself underwater but as I breach the surface again I see them finally turned in my direction but my heart drops as I see that each has a paddle in their hand. I know immediately that the outboard must not be starting. “You’ve got to be kidding me”… I say aloud before replacing there snorkel in my mouth and ducking back under the water.

I see the shark again on my left. He’s beautiful and I love watching him but its getting pretty dark and im really not in love with the situation at hand (though i’m thrilled that I hadn’t speared another fish already and was sitting here with bait). I sit down for as long as my breath allows with the lobster and rock he’s hiding under to my back… somehow feels better to know that while my eyes are darting back and forth I at least don’t need to look behind me.

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My mind races to all possible outcomes, and in between breaths I settle back down in front of my rock and see the shark heading straight towards me. Not darting back and forth and not with immense speed, just slowly and steadily directly at me.
“Lets not do this” I find myself talking to him through the snorkel but he keeps coming.

Time slows down and I think how I should be elated to be having this beautiful encounter with an animal i’ve wanted to swim with my entire life… but somehow peaceful wasn’t exactly the overriding emotion. He keeps coming and I keep suggesting he’s close enough and should turn around but he doesn’t seem to speak my language. I’m about to run out of breath but not about to take my eyes off him and he finally get close enough that I know I’m going to have to decide to throw a punch. I wait until the last possible second and throw a right hook at the nose of the shark. I honestly don’t know if I made contact or not but he spun around and darted off in the opposite direction.

I go up for a deep breath and wave (now a bit more frantically) both hands above the water. They are finally getting closer but seems like they’re barely moving. I would only discover later once in the boat that the current was pushing pretty hard in the opposite direction. I gasp for another deep breath, decide its a good time to grab the spear and settle back down in front of my rock head on a swivel from side to side.

When the dinghy finally arrives I pop out of the water “Shark, where the hell have you been?" but I already knew the story. I grab the anchor and stick it under a rock to hold them in place and then grab the net and tickle stick. I wasn’t about to leave here without that lobster… Sadly my first attempt failed and he jetted backwards out from under the rock. I chase after him trying in vain to keep one eye on him and one scanning around me for the shark, who thankfully I didn’t see.

A couple more attempts finally ended with the lobster in my net and in one movement I thrust myself into the dinghy a tried to catch my breath and steady the heart rate. Not exactly the calm sunset snorkel we all had in mind. We paddled back to the boat, tied up and poured a cocktail as we told our different ends of the story from above and below the water line and then eventually made dinner and enjoyed our catch.

I most certainly will NOT be forgetting this day or that snorkel any time soon!

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The next day we made our way to the north end of Rose Island where we explore another private beach all to ourselves and then finally had to admit it was time to return to the Marina for our last night together before their departure. Such a blast on all levels but also so incredibly sad to see them go. We tried day in and day out to convince them to stay, to move permanently into the starboard hull… but also knew it was a low probability.

We hung our heads as they headed to the airport and we threw more hugs and said our final “see ya laters”.
It was an amazing experience and our thoughts before their arrival were absolutely correct - the only way to make this lifestyle better is having someone you love here to share it with. In fact, it seemed almost perfect - Jess didn’t get seasick, the fish were plentiful and our experiences were all the positive with very few of the negatives/stresses we’ve been balancing between.

We can’t wait until they come back.
Luckily, there’s only 9 airports in the Caribbean, so we know we’ll see them at least 8 more times the year! =)