NOTE: This post was written on 1/4, but I wasn’t able to upload it as my laptop was down for a week. Here it is.
Have you seen the book, “Six Word Epitaphs”? I found it by turns humorous and poignant, and of course wrote my own: First word, “Hi!” Hasn’t stopped since.
Communication, connecting with others, energizes me. Connecting - talking, emailing, tweeting, blogging, listening, reading, learning, staying in touch, keeping informed, giving advice, telling stories, getting help – defines me. I competed in oral interpretation (now that dates me!) in high school, earned a degree in Human Communications at the University of Maine, and all of my careers have focused on communications in some way.
We left Bimini on December 27th to make our way east in the Bahamas. We’ll eventually end up in Nassau prior to heading for the Exumas and from there, I’ll post this blog, catch up on email, take care of business, and call friends and family. As I write this, it is January 4th – we’ve been unconnected for eight days.
In the meantime, we’re anchored off of Devil’s Cay (pronounced key) in the Berry Islands. It’s beautiful. We’ve been on 3 of the beaches in the area – there are many many more. We’ve explored one of the islands; floated lazily over a sand bar where we observed a ray, starfish, a crab, and many mysterious “Hole Digging Fish” (more on that later) and at least one small shark; visited the only commercial establishment within miles (Flo’s Conch Bar – more on that later, too); harvested a coconut; and had a day of repairs and projects.
We’ve not called anyone, emailed, tweeted, checked the web, or otherwise communicated with family and friends. We can’t. We haven’t had wifi since Bimini and using our AT&T iPhone is just too expensive here. We haven’t listened to the news because I can’t find a radio station that carries the news. I expected to listen to the BBC in the Bahamas and miss “my” NPR and MPBN Radio.
We are not connected.
I hate that. Truly.
When we left Bimini we “buddy sailed” for two days with Linda and David who are aboard S/V Choctaw Brave, crossing Mackie Shoal from Bimini to the Berry Islands. We chatted on the radio with them and maintained a connection until they decided to spend a few days at a marina on Great Harbor Cay. Since December 31st we’ve been on our own, though we’ve chatted with one other couple anchored nearby, four young men on a power boat, and Chester from Flo’s Conch Bar. I’m not the kind of person who can count on two hands the number of people I’ve spoken to in eight days --and have fingers left over!
We are not connected.
I hate that.
There have been so many times I’ve wanted to Tweet out a quick observation or a (hopefully) humorous thought. Even more often, I wonder what’s going on and what I’m missing in Maine, on the news, and on Twitter.
I’m keeping a list of things that I want to look up on the Internet. Are starfish edible? What are those strange little hole digging fish we saw? Can I take a HAM test in the USVI? What kind of bird was that? What is a Key/Cay, anyway and why do they spell it Cay in the Bahamas? While we’re at it, what’s an atoll? What is with Bimini? Does the Explorer Chartbook website offer a warning about the entrance to Devil’s Cay? (It should. It really should.) What kind of shampoo works in salt water? (Because what I’m using most certainly does not.)
We are not connected.
I have no way to connect with my family and friends. I miss the phone calls with my sister and with C. I miss having lunch with K, and having wine and cheese and black olives (never green olives) with L and R. I don’t know what is happening in their lives. How was the trip to Annapolis? Is the flooded office back to normal? Where is L now? Did my cousin and his wife make it back safely from Europe? Where is Mo? Did he make it to Key West Race Week? How was R’s Christmas Brunch? When will J and D head for the Bahamas? How was my sister-in-law’s trip to Buffalo? What is going on? What am I missing?
We. Are. Not. Connected.
I hate that.
In Florida at No Name Harbor I had a delightful discussion with a British couple who’ve been sailing and living aboard for 8 years. As we did, they also lived for a time on the dock year round, but they’ve spent more time cruising. She said that it took her two years to get used to the cruising life. She truly hated it for a time. Her challenges were related to learning to “make do” in new ports of call, provisioning and laundry. I find that fun and exciting. I love the living aboard and cruising tasks that seem like obstacles to others. Walking for propane? No problem. Using less water? OK. Making shelves for the lockers, sewing a sail, weathering a storm (just one, thank you) are all part of the adventure. (And when you think about it, that walk for propane allowed me to connect with more people in two hours than I have in the past 8 days.)
I’m a connections kind of person. I like to know what’s going on. I like to have my hand in running a few things (and EW does not let me run him) I like to visit with my friends and share in their joys and challenges. I like to tell my stories to folks who love me. I love to hear from and about folks we love. I cherish my connections.
I am not connected. This is my struggle.
EW spent yesterday afternoon getting the SSB radio installed. He should finish the project today and we’ll then be able to talk more easily with cruisers in this region. Once he has the pactor modem also installed we can start using our Sailmail email address and connect with short messages to and from family and friends and post on the blog. When we get to Nassau, we’ll purchase a Bahaman Phone Card and call some folks from the may pay phones in the islands.
And when we leave Nassau for the Exumas we’ll still have days where wifi antennas and phone cards will be useless as we explore remote, uninhabited islands.
We will not be always be connected.
I worry that I didn’t prepare friends and family for our silence this week. I know I wasn’t prepared. Evidently, this, too is part of the adventure.
UPDATE: January 15, 2011
EW did not get the SSB installed while we were in the Berry Islands. Careful readers will note that we have lost important connections somewhere on the boat. After an exhaustive search and much help from Bahama John, the taxi driver, we found one of those connections in Nassau. Since the weather was cloudy and windy we elected to stay here and EW is now installing the SSB, Pactor Modem, and the new GPS. He is talking to himself, reading 3 different instruction books, sighing, cutting holes in the bulkheads, making a mess and working hard to connect us.
It took three days and two very good computer companies to get my Dell fixed here and I have just had use of her since Thursday evening. These are all part of the challenges of living aboard and cruising and we are actually coping really well with all of it. Have walked a lot – to stores for parts; and frequently remind each other that we have no deadline until April. It’s not snowing here, everyone is very friendly, and we have a safe and comfortable free anchorage. Life is great.