Thursday, July 26, 2012

Paradise Found

I was awake in the wee hours last night and found myself flipping through the queued programs on my DVR.  "Oprah's Next Chapter" held an episode featuring David Copperfield.  This is something I'd normally never watch.  I have an aversion for "magicians".  And I put that word in quotes because pulling, say, a rabbit out of one's ass is not actually "magic" but, rather, a trick.  At best the word is "illusion".

The thing is, I do believe in magic.  Real magic. Magic as in love, giant snowflakes, inspiration, synchronicity and whiskers on kittens. And, of course, as I said on Crackbook the other day, Folgers in your cup. None of the magic I believe in, however, includes an overly bronzed bug-eyed wildly dramatic cocksman from Jersey.  

Regardless, there I was at wee-thirty in the morning with nothing better to do.  While it was at least mildly interesting to learn of Copperfield's triumph over the adversity of a difficult childhood (his mother beat him); meet his thirtysomething fiance (he's fifty-five, and previously married to Claudia Schiffer); the big takeaway is David's digs.  

Y'all?  Bronzy Copperfield doesn't just own an island in paradise.  No. He owns a string of islands in paradise. 

Eleven to be exact. 

And when Magie McMagicson decides to take a break from performing six hundred (?!) shows per year in his personalized theater at the MGM Grand in Vegas and needs a place to throw off his mighty codpiece and sit a spell, he heads south to "Copperfield Bay" in (guess where?) the Bahamas.

I guess the fact that I was just there (generally speaking) only fueled my awe at the thought and images of this heavenly place.  I mean, I know that it really, really is THAT beautiful. Even better? David would like to share paradise with you.  That's right. You, too, can experience the magic of Copperfield Bay.  All you need is a passport, a change of underpanties, and $37,500 per night.   

Get a preview right here.

(But forget about the bed on the beach.  That spot's mine.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sailing the Abacos

A starfish!  Much petted but still alive in the water off Tilloo Beach. Click on any photo to see a larger version.
So, yes!  I went sailing in the Abacos.  

Insert your favorite seafaring song [here].

I  feel a lot of pressure to write about the experience.  Especially since I blew in my last post about THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE (which, yes, the Abacos are located in the BT) as well as my legendary and life-long motion sickness problem. The thing is, I have about one million photos to edit and I do not know when, if ever, I am going to get that task accomplished and my photos arranged into some kind of semblance of a storytelling order.

Le Boat.  Called Le Bel-Air. Because it sailed over from Le France. 

So, I don't know what else to do but just plunge ahead and post a few photos (in no particular order) and update you on perhaps the two most important facts:

Smart-assing around at Nippers.

1) I SURVIVED THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE.  Barely (but we'll get to that).
We called the thing I'm collapsed on here, strung and bouncy in the front of the boat "the trampoline".  Once settled upon  (if you don't manage to bounce out and into the sea), it is the world's best sunbathing spot.  Sailing rocks you to sleep while the water rushing by only a few feet beneath you prevents overheating.  Good-bye cruel world...   

2) Oh my God, y'all.  I. HAD. NO. MOTION. SICKNESS.  Whatsoever.  This is nothing short of miraculous.  If you aren't a sufferer, you just won't understand, but cripes, for me to be able to stand in the TINY sleeping cabin of a small ship whist the vessel is being tossed about on the waves and NOT lose my lunch or even have a SHRED of nausea is just...something I would not have believed had I not experienced it myself.  This was accomplished through months of taking ginger (2 capsules at night after dinner) as well as through the constant wearing of the Meclizine patch beginning an hour before we sailed.  I knew the ginger was effective when I experienced no nausea during take off or landing during the flights to the islands (we flew Nashville-Ft. Lauderdale/Ft. Lauderdale-Marsh Harbour).  Once on the boat, however, I was never without the Meclizine and continued to take ginger every day, so it's impossible for me to sort out what parts each treatment played in the suspension of my nausea on the water.  Suffice it to say:  Meclizine.  Ginger.  THEY WORK.
The lot of us.
Motion-wise, though, I should probably add that I did experience the phenom wherein when off the boat, I had the erroneous sensation that I was still "floating".  Small spaces on land would sometimes seem to pitch back and forth a little as if they were suspended in water.  I've read of people developing this condition chronically (sometimes after weeks long cruises), but my experience with it was short lived--it went away after a few hours on land--and was even a little pleasant.

What to say otherwise?

Guana Cay
How about the Abacos are a paradise? Crazy, stupid, sob-inducingly beautiful 

Tilloo Beach.  Yes, we had to take The Dingy and a box of white wine there.  You can see Le Bel Air  (not my favorite boat name) anchored out to to see on the right.
It never rained a drop.  The sky was an azure blue filled with fluffy white clouds suspended above an undulating sea that was at turns emerald, royal blue, turquoise, black, smooth as glass, choppy, rolling, most always calm.  The islands are a landscape of white sand beaches dotted with coconut-laden palm trees but often developed with the cottages of the English fisherman that settled the place giving the whole thing a vibe I would call "beachy colonial".

Native cab drivers ferry entitled tourists to and from the airport in ramshackle cabs driven the English way in the left lane.  I was told a permit to drive a cab is among the most coveted of all possessions there and the these are often passed down for generations Grandparent to parent to son/daughter and so on. The fare is best settled on before committing to the ride, lest your bourgeois ass be taken advantage of (and, lets face it, you deserve it). 

Your own. Personal. Island.
The culture is unhurried, soaked in rum and fresh fruit juice, and the food conch-heavy and salty. Seafood most often "cracked" (fried). I never waited less than an hour for meal service. Fortunately one is easily lulled into slack-jawed complacency about this with a strong rum drink. 

That is, if you can even manage to retain any residual angst that hasn't already been lulled away by the rocking of the boat or gently puffed into [at least] next week by an island breeze or chased away by the relentlessly cheerful sun. I never journeyed far enough from the edges of that world to experience many of the native people, but instead existed (inappropriately) among the floating elite.

I'm congenitally unable to pass up a dog photo.  This guy swam over from the buildings you see in the distance with his master.  He's a paradise dog. 

And, people?  I do mean elite.

Sunset at Guana Cay
I didn't make it a habit to take photos of the more elaborate boats (in fact now, looking back through my photos I photographed none of them really--you see a fairly large one to the left in the photo above) I saw anchored in the ports of the Abacos, but many were floating yachts with many televisions, kitchens, everyimaginableconvenience boasting deep cushy furniture to flop down in after a hard day of planting your amazing self on the bow of your yacht, arms crossed, and surveying the seascape of paradise like the conquering hero that obviously you are. These boats were everywhere and often featured a twenty (or MAYBE) thirtysomething near naked trophy wife stained mahogany from the sun.  These well maintained women were escorted by their wealthy sagging seagoing husbands from port to port. 

After a while, I began to recognize people I'd seen before. ("Say, didn't I see you looking fabulous at Elbow Cay yesterday?")  

The view from Nippers.  Pictured here is the rock we stood on to take group photo posted earlier. This is a pretty immense vista--see two tiny sunbathers to the right.
It is a circuit, really, like a roving seagoing camping trip. Elbow Cay, Guana Cay, Boat Harbor, Hopetown, Treasure. 
Landing at Lighthouse Marina
By day boats glide from one island paradise to another, anchoring up in the afternoon for dinner ashore and a night spent at a new floating camp site, plugging in to electricity, taking on water and supplies, running up unimaginable tabs at the "gas station" in order to do it all again tomorrow.  And the next day.  
This girl was shy and retiring. And shopping.  In that. 
And the next. 
Your Bahama beer choices: Kalik or Kalik?  Fortunately, it's yummy.
Get browner. Increasingly rum-soaked. More relaxed (if that's possible).  

Man o War Cay
Jimmy Buffet does not exaggerate the laid-back, easygoing culture that surrounds the lifestyle. Pretty sure he never found that lost shaker of salt.  
Man O War again.
It all seemed to me rather lawless (I don't think "police" as such really exist in the Abacos, nor do doctors, or the innernets) and drunken and lax and happy-go-lucky.  To wear a sun dress to dinner is to dress up.  Bathing suits with casual cotton cover up thrown on and flip flops are the norm. No cover-up?  Fine.  Drink?  Yes. 

At "Nippers" on Guana Cay
Ah, yes.  The Drink. 

There is something about boaters and sailors that makes them think their insides need to be as awash in liquid as their boats, I've decided. Albeit in fermented liquid.  I've never met a sailor that didn't enjoy a drink or twenty-seven, thankyouverymuch.  
And the answer is: I demand this be more idyllic and relaxing!  Category: Shit We Never Said Except for that One Time
(Okay, okay, so you've a sailing tee totaling Uncle Bob, whatever, but I'll still wager he is the exception to the rule). 

A panoramic of the view at Elbow Cay from the candy striped lighthouse. You can see our  boat in the center of the photo.  It's the one docked on the right.
I suppose it was about day two that we decided to go snorkeling. Our fairly disinterested often uncommunicative captain (not that I cared!) offered to take the four of us excited to snorkel to some picturesque locale supposedly perfect for the activity.  
That's El Capitan managing the rope.
We had to use a smaller boat to get there, and this is the best picture I have of it (taken later in the day on the way to dinner):

I don't suppose you can tell much about it from that angle, but suffice it to say it's a smaller fishing boat, a skiff is what I would think of it as, and it looked much like this:
Except not inflatable.  Anyway, that isn't the point (But I love this photo, right? Another at Tilloo.  Blue! Turquoise! *sob!*).  The point is to snorkel, an activity I'd participated in exactly once before in the glassy smooth waters off Key West. The four of us set off that day excited about the prospect.  When El Capitan stopped the skiff in choppy water not too many clicks from a fairly jagged looking rock formation, I won't lie, I was a little confused.  Choppy water?  Snorkeling?

"Well, hello gorgeous!"  A seafaring lady. I. We. Didn't. Know what to make of this. So, like everybody else, we just stared.  Well, except I, of course, took photos.  Because I'm always thinking of you.  YOU and only you.
El Capitan gestured to the entrance to a natural bay half a mile or so in the distance.  THAT BAY was the snorkeling locale.  EC told us the current would "carry us down there" if only we'd jump in and, oh, don't crash in to the rock formation.
An eventful trip in the the Danger Dingy

The first two of us donned snorkel gear and went off the back of the boat.  Leaving the second two of us (including me) to suit up. Normally, this wouldn't take long (a mask, a tube, flippers), but my flippers were mismatched and didn't fit, meaning I had to use another set--a set too big--and ratchet them tightly on my feet. My apprehension was growing by the time I jumped in, but hell, I'm the woman who'd conquered a life-long case of motion sickness only just one day prior, remember? I logged six miles on the treadmill before I left!  I can SWIM!
Snapped with iPhona on a stroll around Hopetown. One of my favorites
Yah, right.
View from Hopetown Harbor Lodge
I plunged into the ocean.  
View from the room at Abaco Beach Resort
Let's just say what looked like choppy water from the boat was something of a bigger problem upon immersion. 
Sunrise at Boat Harbor, our beginning and ending point.
I managed to tread water, right my mask, and get the breathing tube into my mouth.  Then I kicked my feet back, put my face in the water, kicked, took a breath...and breathed sea water.  The choppy water proved to much for the length of my tube.  What's more, I was being swept toward the jagged rocks.
We had this entire beach to ourselves (complete with ocean kayaks) for one whole day. [Insert Lou Reed's "It's Such a Perfect Day" here.] 
I decided to try again. Quickly.
Dinner at "Mango", Marsh Harbor
Tread water-right my mask-get the breathing tube...waitaminute.  One of my kicking feet found purchase...
More of the view at Hopetown Harbor Lodge
Not really.

Not a shark but I was close enough to the rocks that my foot had found their underwater edge.  I could actually stand on it as I readied my mask for another try.  Mask, tube, kick back...

Sea water. 
A very lucky somebody's backyard in Hopetown.
Good times! 
We ended up back in the boat.  And fairly waterlogged.  Then, good ol' El Capitan blithely drove the effing boat on over to the "snorkeling bay". I'd randomly assumed this impossible in the first place due to shallowness. He picked up the other two snorkelers who remarked about the "strong undertow" when they climbed back in the boat looking none too relaxed.

So, yes, El Capitan tried to kill us. 

Happily, that dicey ten minutes was the exception to the rule.
Dinner on our last night at Abaco Inn.

Mostly, it was lazy, sunny, rum soaked, salty, turquoise, sloe.

Mostly, it was heaven.