Wondering what cruising is really like?
“Cruising Stories” are little glimpses of the cruising life, some written by me and others by friends and TBG readers. They’re not how-to’s or travelogues. They’re emotional and raw, hitting both the beauty of this life and its ugly side. Above all, they’re real.
Cory Nickerson & Mendy Dixon | In the Mood — I met Cory & Mendy within days of their buying In the Mood and taking the mooring next to us in Boot Key Harbor. I watched them learn to live aboard and sail, going from total novices who learned as they worked and built up their cruising kitty. Here’s their story, in their own words, taken from their Facebook post upon their return from the Bahamas. Follow them at Amateur Hour Sailing.
After two years of hard work, lots of learning and copious amounts of anticipation we completed our journey from landlocked non-boaters, to liveaboards, to neophyte cruisers setting out for the Bahamas.
Now as we end that seven month Bahamas cruise, the sentiment we have is very similar to the one we had at its beginning. Gratitude.
We were driven early on in preparation and planning by what most people would expect. Vast swaths of stunningly beautiful beaches and crystal clear water. Reefs with heart-melting colors and life. Fresh food from the ocean. Palm trees and drinking from coconuts. All of these things came true in ways the imagination can barely think up.
Despite that embarrassment of beauty, the highlights of the trip for me were different than what I expected.
We set out to spend most of our time there in the summer. Largely because the winter crowds are gone or leaving when we arrived in May. We looked forward to long stretches of time being alone on our self-contained boat enjoying private beaches and islands. Largely, this is what we did get, and without a doubt, we cherished that solitude. Many places we would anchor as the only boat within miles while Google earth would show pictures of dozens of boats in the area during a winter satellite pass.
Oddly though, despite our quest for solitude, it ended up being that people we met who transformed what could have been a mere tour of beautiful places into a journey that will live in our hearts forever.
- The gentleman on a megayacht who borrowed a funnel and left a thank you note and forty dollars in our cockpit when he returned it. Mendy and I sure seemed to have allergies when we found that gift.
- Bonner, a Bahamian in Great Harbour who cooks out on Saturdays outside his home. We were walking across the island when we mistook his restaurant for an outdoor lawn furniture shop. He sat us down, welcomed us, treated us like family. Mendy asked him a simple question and he took her behind his makeshift outdoor kitchen and spent 30 minutes showing her the basics of Bahamian cuisine. I reaped the delicious rewards of his lesson many times after that day.
- Steve, another Berry Island resident who spent nearly 2 months being our friend and personal Bahamian concierge while we were in the Berries.
- Frankly, the entire island of Great Harbour Cay. The people were so amazing that I am hardly surprised a fellow cruiser who embarked for a long tour of the Caribbean from Florida made it just 150 miles before finding paradise and never left.
- Ryan and Renee, who saw a somewhat tongue in cheek but real Facebook post about an onboard beer shortage and made sure to stop by us on their way to Florida to sell us their last beer provisions at mainland prices.
- Another family saw the same post and swung by to sell us a few weeks of their remaining provisions at silly low prices on their way back to the states.
- In Nassau, where we got slightly lost in a non-tourist area that foreign tourists warn each other about, a few tough shady looking guys we crossed the street to avoid could tell we were lost and gave us directions and a great welcome.
- Lonnie and Teri, Lonnie a Bahamian and cruiser saw us looking for a dinghy when our started trying to swim to the seafloor went way, way out of his way to try and help, and repeatedly throughout our trip was a huge source of information, assistance, and friendship.
- Mike. Mike is a recently departed cruiser who has sailed the Bahamas and Caribbean for longer than I have been alive. We met at a bar in Long Island. A character from a Hemingway novel if ever there was one. When Irma passed, with winds still in the 50s swam to the mangroves got his dinghy and rowed out to look at our boat and radioed shore to let us known it was okay. The cruising community lost one of its greats this year.
- The kid cleaning up a bar on Long Island from a big party the night before who served us a beer even though they weren’t open and spent over an hour just talking with us.
- Linda and Chris, the hardest of the hardcore liveaboard cruisers. Linda spent weeks every day sometimes twice walking the beaches and trails of Great Exuma with Mendy, becoming a lifelong friend and teaching her the plants that could be harvested for food. As a side note, if you want to meet the real true “sailors” out there, do the southern Bahamas in summer, we were ants walking among elephants.
- The group of guys at Crab Cay who invited us for a lobster cookout because “We need help eating these so we can have an excuse to go catch more tomorrow”. And even though at that point we were at critically low provisions and contributed nothing more than a bowl of yellow rice, stuffed us fulll and sent us home with lobster tails enough for two meals.
- The crews of Lucayan and Mendicino Queen. Experienced world travels we met in Boot Key who kept tabs on us and always stood by ready with help or advice if we needed it. Here in Ft. Lauderdale, we got an out of the blue message from Allen and Kate of Mendicino Queen, we are in the area and have a car let us know if you need a ride anywhere.
There are more. So many more. The local populations in the Bahamas are just stunning in their kindness and welcoming nature. Never before have I been treated like family by strangers so often.
It’s a big world and so many places to explore, and endless windmills to tilt at, we may never return to those islands but they and the people we were fortunate enough to meet will stay with us always.