Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Captain's Curse

When I was a kid, I used to read adventure books, stuff like The Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, that kind of stuff, and I would dream about what the future held in store for me. The fun and excitement that waited for me as I too could venture out, and try my hand at exploring the unknown, was something that I looked forward to. Later, my horizons expanded, with the addition of works by Bradbury and Asimov. It seems that science fiction was the best way for me to get lost into an unknown world of endless possibilities and the wonders that only the imagination can create.

Growing up in Florida, along the coast, there was, for me, always the lure of the sea. The unknown was there, the unseen, the danger was there. It was the perfect starting pad for a future of exploration. I learned to scuba dive, and years later was forced to actually take a course and certified to get tanks filled. Scuba diving was as close as you could get to traveling to another planet, and still stay on earth. The animals are different, the place looks different, even the atmosphere is toxic to humans! But, I learned that with this expansion of my universe, there was also responsibility. The equipment needed proper care and maintenance, the conditions needed to be right, the weather must be known. Failure to address these, and a dive trip could become deadly, and they still do. Multiple divers die every year, just in the Florida Keys alone, where our home is. Each time I read about someone, I wonder what went wrong, was it preventable, or was it just a really bad day for somebody. Yes, it is tough to be a carefree explorer. Being spontaneous requires a lot of planning!

Boating is no different, there are lots of things to plan for, and care for. The responsibility usually falls on the owner/operator, the Captain, to make sure the boat is seaworthy, and the plan for the day is a sound one. Should we go, or stay? Is this a good spot to anchor, or should we move? Can we sail there in a long day sail, or do we need to consider an overnight trip, or do it in two days? There is a saying, "Six of one thing, or a half dozen of the other", meaning that sometimes there just isn't a clear cut answer, you just make the best choice you can with the information that is available. This is the part that can make you a bit daffy, and sometimes make you look like a goof.

Sometimes a decision just has to be made, and the consequences dealt with. But, the decision must be made. That's the Captains Curse! It's tough to be in charge sometimes, tough to make the right call, but to be indecisive is worse. It can be just as bad to make no decision, to be paralyzed by fear. Well, fear is a part of being on the ocean, and can be a healthy thing too, but it can also be bad. So, make the decision, and let the cards fall as they will, it will be fine. And it usually is, things work out in the end.

Nighttime is when all things weird happen on a boat. Every sound is a potential disaster, unraveling in the darkness. The captain of course, is the one who is in charge of investigating and dismissing most of these sounds. The truth is, almost always, things are fine, it's just a noise or whatever, but not always. And that is what makes the Captain get out of bed at night to go see, just look at the previous blog post from Jan 11, 2015, titled "What The... Who In The...!!!".

The responsibility is worth it of course, to do these things and to see and experience the awesome world we are in makes it so for us. I will take those sleepless nights, those scary storms, those wet dingy rides... there is always something new to see. It's just over the horizon, right around the corner!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Thunderball Grotto

We left Georgetown after a crazy night of howling winds, and wondered why we climbed the monument and didn't leave yesterday instead. The anchor was up and we were moving before 06:30, out into the swells in Exuma Sound. The sail was good, we were running with the high winds, and as the swells built with it, we had to slow down a little. The trip included going through a cut, a passage between the ocean and the shallow banks on the east side of the Exuma chain. These cuts have wicked currents, and when this current flows into big swells and high winds, the waves pile up and stand tall. These standing waves and opposing currents are dangerous, and can cause a loss of control. No, not bladder control, although that is a possibility, we are talking boat handling control. These cuts are narrow, and rocky too, so control is important not too get turned sideways and founder. So, we slowed down, and went through Galliot Cut just at the end of the incoming tide, and it was a breeze.

The sail to Staniel from the West side of the island, was great, we had 18 knots of wind and the boat was flying along at 7 to 8 knots, fastest we saw was 8.3 for a while. We dropped anchor in a small anchorage just off the entrance to Thunderball Grotto, and ran Guincha to shore for a break. As we were ordering a post-sail beer, we ran into Scott and his wife Narrissa, and their baby Gordon! Scott is the son of our friend Jeannette from Long Island, and he works not far from here on Overyonder Cay. What a small world, we fished with Scott the day we went tuna fishing!

Way back in 1965 there was a movie made here in the Bahamas, and a portion, a very small portion actually, was filmed right here in the underwater cave that is known as Thunderball Grotto. Yes, you guessed it, the movie was a James Bond film called Thunderball, starring Sean Connery as James Bond.
The movie is about international outlaw group Spectre having gotten their dirty rotten hands on a couple of nukes, and then demanding a Brazilion British pounds for their return. Somehow, the moviemakers decided to hire none other than Tom Jones (remember "What's Up Pussycat", arghh! ) to perform the intro song for the flick. It is miserable, absolutely the worst Bond song ever, but the silhouette of the nude girl swimming aimlessly around in circles during the song and opening credits helps a lot. Anyhow, I am not sure if it was called the Thunderball Grotto before the movie, it was probably just called Grotto. After the movie came out, they changed the name to Thunderball Grotto I am guessing. But later, they brought Bond back here for the filming of another flick, "Never Say Never Again", and they didn't change the name to "Never Say Never Again Grotto", even though the Grotto got a good deal more movie time in the second film. Who decides these things anyway, go figure.

It is important to enter the Grotto at slack tide, as there there is a strong current that enters from one side or the other, as the cave has several entrances. Two of these are exposed at low tide, so you can swim, or preferably, snorkel right in without doing the Aquaman routine through the entrance to gain access to the open area inside.
Once inside, the cave is round, like a rotunda, with an intersting domed ceiling that is probably 30 feet high. The roof has several openings in it, that let the sun beam down, lighting the inside in an eerie random fashion. There are lots of fish inside, and they are used to curious swimmers feeding them scraps, so we brought along some bread which they swarmed instantly. The areas outside the grotto were better lit, and the rocks were hosting a huge variety of soft and hard corals, as well as lots of tropical fish. It was definitely a worthy visit, and we would come back here to "Thunderball-Never-Say-Never-Again-Saltrun-Grotto". Check out our latest video, an underwater look at Thunderball Grotto!