Hello again my dear friends and family! As some of you know, I have reached the land of cell phone reception and wifi connections (a.k.a. Florida) But I am going to back track for a second to write one last blog entry about my lovely Tortugas. The only thing left that i really thought worthy of an entry is the surrounding wild life that i came in contact with there. I have already dicussed the copious amounts of birds on the island but personally i was far more interested in what could be found bellow, In the water.
I may have mentioned that we got to go snorkeling a bunch, there unfortunately are not many large healthy reefs left in most shore lines around the gulf anymore due to storms, polution, and other issues but we did still get to find several smaller corral heads and plenty of gorgeous little (and not so little) fishies. My favorite were the schools of parrot fish which a almost iridecent teal with bits of bright pink and purples and golds I am also quite fond of the angel fish who's thin large round bodies are a shiny white. Of course i wont name all of the fish that i observed but i'll assure you they were many and lovely. However, the fish to make the most frequent appearances were not so colorful and much much larger in size.
There were two GIANT 100lb to 200lb groupers that made the anchoring field their home as well as several 4ft-5ft barracuda. They like the shade that the underbellies of the larger sailboats provides and -unfortunately- have grown very acustomed to being fed meal scraps by touring sailors. This would be all fine and dandy except for the fact that the wole time we were there our "showers" consisted of jumping off the boat into the clear water then lather up with Joy(the only soap that actually lathers up in saltwater fyi), then jump back in and finally rinse off with the fresh water hose on deck. Now, i dont want to be mistaken, i have no problem with swimming around gigantic, freaky lookin fish BUT because these -otherwise harmless- fish have been more or less trained to associate fleshy lookin things in their water with dinner they were inclinded to attack your little toesies or ankels. The paek ranger gave one account of a woman dangling her legs off the back of her boat at the end of the hot day when a large barracuda litterally bit her achilles OFF!!!! Yeah so, there's that. o.O So, as you can imagine I gave them a wide birth and would pretend to not be somewhat freaked out when climbing up our starboard ladder and back onboard praying i could make it to the top with both ankles HAha.
I was under the impression that we would get to see at least SOME sharks on this trip (in case you were not aware, i really like sharks and have always wanted to swim around with them!!) but unfortunately during this season they are pretty much all over near the bahamas. I was crushed. However Tina (never one to take anything lying down) still was constantly on the look out and would make us slow down frenquently on any dinghy ride just to make sure we would be able to catch a look if one was arounf. One day she and i went out just to troll around the water search of Nurse sharks but we had no luck in the shark department. --However we did see two spectacularly adorable sea turtles! I had NO idea how fast those things swim but holy cow they can zoom. -- I was just about to give up hope after days of this disappointment and missing out on the two quick glimpses that Ken and Tina had gotten...that is, until our 5th day. We had heard that earlier in the day a neighboring boat had seen a pretty large nurse shark around the far side of the island so we took that as a good sign. (Side note: No one understood why we would WANT to see sharks or go looking for them for that matter but poo poo i say. Sharks are cool!) We decided that after getting washed and cleaned up after the afternoon run we would go over to the island's far side and test our luck with look out. After i had gotten cleaned and dried off i was patiently waiting for Tina to get out of the water. -She never leaves the ladder but splashes around while holding on...big baby ;) haha-- I was sitting port side, keeping an eye on the bigger of the two grouper when suddenly THERE IT WAS! at first just a huge dark shaddow coming toward the boat and then getting closer i could see very clearly the 7ft Nurse Shark fast approaching. "Tina, Tina!!" I shouted across to her on the starboad side, jumping to my feet and all around frantically looking around for my phone or any camera and, in the moment, having no idea what to do. "A shark! It's a shark!" I gleefully reported. I could see it keeping its course to go under us. I didn't want to miss out an the long awaited chance to see this beautiful animal close up, so without thinking i ran across, through the cockpit to the oposite side of the boat and with a leapfrom the railing, right over Tina (who was making of surprisingly quick ascent up the ladder), i dove down -nearly on top of the shark. I opened my eyes and tried to see under the salt water but could only make out the fogged outline of the large figure right next to me swim away. So thrilled by the rush of adrenaline i had forgotten about the 200lb grouper guarding the bottom of our boat. With a dread -that would have been more appropriately placed toward the SHARK-i now spun around in search of this fish. Sure enough it was making its way towards me with a gaping mouth, big enough to fit my whole leg inside of. "Aggaaaaagggaagaa.!!" i blubbed from beneath the water. I surfaced and swimming wildly and with all the efficiency of a frightened giraffe on rollerskates i made my way to the ladder and jumped my feet up the last rung just in time to evade what could have been merely an encounter of curiousity but what i had convinced myself was the hungry approach of a man eating grouper. ---> After analyzing these event i really have to laugh at myself and question my own sanity.
I am also proud to report that i am on a first name basis with a wild, salt water crocodile. That's right, there is a big ol' croc living in the moat of the Fort. He was blown in by a hurricane years ago and nearly scared the crud out of me on my walk around the wall. He's pretty chill though...name's Carlos ;)
Finally, there were three other pretty awesome animals i had the pleasure of meeting last week. Holly, Jeremy, and Joe. These three came around at such an oportune moment for me. I was having a hard time the previous few days getting bummed about he idea of sailing not being all that i thought it was. I love this boat and my crewmates so much but there isn't much of the reespirited, scallawag, life grabing, pirate nature in them. Honestly, i think they are much better than all that and are the type of people i am glad to be learning from but it is hard to keep my dream alive sometimes when looking at all the practical...and the costs...and the set backs. Until i met these 3 sailors. No older than 27, Holly owns her own sail boat and is just living to make it to the next place...wherever that may be, and jeremy has tagged along recently. Joe, 30 years old, got out of the coast guard, bought his own boat and decided to sail around the world. They didn't really have any money when they jumped in, they just...did it. "There will be a million people telling you that you can't but you know....you know there's no way you couldn't." Holly told me one night they invited me over to drink rum and eat a delicious grouper that she had stabbed in the face a couple hours earlier (She hadn't gotten her hook on the rod yet and thought this 30lb grouper was perfect for dinner...so..."stab, grab, and stick it in the cooler" Jeremy retold). They all had their own random skills that they've picked up along the way but the main thing that set them up for success on the water: Just deciding to do it.
I wont ever forget all these awesome animals but those 3 pirates will always be my favorite. I have had my dream and passion sufficiently rekindled because of them. Time to move forward and just do it!