Somehow, someway, the weather gods heard my calls and sensed my fears. Those howling winds came to a screeching halt. All morning, my undivided attention was nowhere else but on the movement (or lack thereof) of the palm fronds surrounding my rental. Happy happy joy joy!!! But would it last??? Good lord I hoped so.
I loaded up my gear (far more than I probably needed) and met the ladies at another hotel to be picked up and whisked away by my friends from Out Island Explorers. We had an hour-ish drive ahead of us so it was a good opportunity to chit-chat along the way to get to know the group a little better. Not gonna lie, I was nervous as hell. Yeah, yeah, it didn’t APPEAR that wind would play a factor in our paddling but you really never know until you get on the water. And even then you don’t know until you’ve paddled around “the corner”. That’s when the buyer’s remorse kicks in. LOL.
Upon arrival to our launching point on a calm protected creek, it became a kayak stuffing party. Take one of this, that, and the other from several piles of gear, along with your own personal gear, and stuff as much as humanely possibly in all the nooks and crannies of the kayak. It’s really amazing how much you can fit into and onto that floating apparatus, stick two humans inside, and still actually float. Tamara decided that, given the potential for winds like last year, double kayaks were the best idea. Good call. They are significantly more stable and when you have two people paddling, well, it makes it a bit easier to paddle. Doy. But double kayaks are also a game changer for a couple of reasons: 1. The person in the front controls the pace, while the person in the back keeps up with the pace and has to paddle in sync with the front. 2. The person in the front can’t steer, so they are at the mercy of the person in the back who controls the rudder. Muhahahhaaa. I was in the back. Luckily, my partner (I shall call her Pursey to maintain her privacy) was awesome. She must have brought her invisible motor from last year though, as she kept the pace of a cheetah and I’m not even sure she took one break in 4 days. Given that she is more than 10 years my senior, I sure as heck wasn’t gonna complain!
Our kayaks were packed and we were on our way down Odie Creek with Long Cay in our sights for a pit stop and lunch. The creek was about 100 yards across, incredibly calm, and lined with mangroves on both sides. I suspect we were paddling with the tide as it was an easy paddle out of there and into the great blue yonder. Seriously, the weather was just un-friggin-believable. Not even a puff of wind, sunny, 85-ish and insanely perfect.
A beautiful and easy paddle ensued for about 5.5 miles and we took a lunch break on a perfect sandy spot along the shore of Long Cay. I was thrilled to tear into my lunch because, well, bacon, and get some much needed fuel to prepare to paddle the rest of the way to camp. The approach to the beach was extremely shallow so we had to park the kayaks waaaaaaaaay off the beach and walk to shore to partake in our lunch activities. Several coconut palms stood in a tight cluster making for a postcard like backdrop. It’s rare to see coconut palms in the Exumas as they are not indigenous to the islands. Someone must have planted one or two and then time likely took care of the rest. A magnificent lunch indeed.
We spent about 45 mins – 1 hour on Long Cay before we took off to camp. The paddle to camp on Brigantine Cay was another easy one as we were tucked along the inside of Long Cay, Lily Cay, and Brigantine Cay passing two deep cuts along the way. The views alternated between pristine white beaches and sharp limestone cliffs that hung over the water providing happy little homes for juvenile fish, crabs, and the like. “How much further?”, one paddler asks. “Just around that point”, Tamara answers. That “point” seemed to get further and further away. Or we were paddling backwards. One of the two. This simple question and answer would be repeated over and over throughout the trip and something we would laugh about during the evenings.
As we paddled through one of the cuts, I heard some laughter and louder voices than I was used to hearing, which piqued my interest. Word made its way to us and as it turns out, a shark found some interest in Tamara’s rudder and followed her for a few moments. The two local girls, who feared sharks more than anything else, were trailing Tamara’s kayak when they spotted it behind her, not something they were particularly thrilled to witness. The rest of the 2.5 mile paddle was uneventful yet full of scenery right out of a magazine. The kind of photos that editors have to filter and alter so they are magazine worthy. We got to see those photos in person. Unfiltered and unaltered perfection.
We finally rounded “the point” and spotted, in the distance, our forever-long sandy beach that would become our home base for the next two nights. The new paddlers did great and everyone was relieved to be done for the day. Now it was time to take a dip, unpack, set up camp, and start a fire. I was still obsessed with the fact that the water was so calm. There wasn’t but a ripple slapping onto the beach and the leaves on the trees stood still. This kind of weather is great for kayaking but less than ideal for bugs. Last year we didn’t have a bug issue since the winds were so gusty, however, this year was a different story. I’d rather deal with the bugs all day long than with that wind we had last year. The first line of defense for bug prevention was to change into nighttime clothes, which requires full coverage from head to toe. Even the buff is required as the sand flies will pick you up and carry you away if you don’t cover up. Once the sun sets, they have a shift change with the mosquitoes, likely high fiving on their way out. The mosquitoes will just annihilate you in a matter of 5 minutes if you’re not prepared. Luckily I brought socks this time and that was another game changer. Let me repeat, a GAME CHANGER! It wasn’t just a bug repellant, but it also kept the sand off my feet as I walked around at night. But the key, friends, is to wear TWO pairs of socks. TWO! Because Tamara is a genius, she puts on one pair of tall socks, then another pair of short socks over those. We walk around the sand in the socks and then when you unzip your tent as fast as possible to jump your ass in there so you don’t let the bugs in, you rip off the short socks, chuck them outside, and voila, no sand in the tent! Mind blown.
I can get really excited and deep into the trenches of my fascination with the socks thing. Ok back to the evening. Tent was setup, I changed into my bug armor, and was ready to make a fire. Tamara was setting up the kitchen to make dinner and to keep the bugs away, a fire is absolutely necessary. With a little jumpstart from Tamara, I helped keep the fire going while she cooked dinner. She assumed the fire duties post dinner as she’s the pro. With full bellies, we all gathered around the fire for a great night of chatting. The moon was full and as it rose throughout the night, we didn’t even need our headlamps to get back to our tents it was so bright out.
The night was long and I didn’t sleep much as I always worry about high tide washing my tent away. So what seemed like every 30 minutes, I’d look out my screen to see if it was too close. Nope, never close. The moonlight was useful while we were up and active but made it really hard to sleep. But one other new piece of gear would also be a game changer (game changer is clearly my new favorite phrase) on this trip……wait for it……an air mattress!!! Holy wonderful. Last year, I opted for a mattress pad, which is a thin camping pad that you can quickly blow up. But my hip bones were digging into the ground last time and I didn’t sleep a wink. This year I opted for a single air mattress and boy am I glad I did. I’ll never go back to a mattress pad if I can help it. I was blissfully comfortable and so grateful to have it. If I’m gonna be wide awake at night I might as well be comfortable and wide awake.