Saturday, August 6, 2016

A Chance Encounter?

I know I've mentioned it before here, but if you're interested in the previous adventures of Windbird under her present/soon-former owners Mark & Judy Handley, you should check out The Voyage of Windbird blog. Judy (and very occasionally Mark) posted almost every single night, sending logs via ham radio with pactor modem when they were offshore. The first six years are a well-written look at daily life as a circumnavigator; the five years since make for more sobering reading as Mark was diagnosed with colon cancer soon after their return, but through the ups and downs of his fight they find joy in their grandkids and extended family, each other, and Windbird herself. I've come to really admire the Handleys through their blog, our email and phone conversations, and getting to know their boat. Be forewarned, though: don't dive into the blog without a good week or two set aside. It's long. I started reading right around the time we started getting serious about Windbird in late May, and still haven't completely finished.

In fact I just recently read Judy's Year 10 account of their cruise through the Bahamas, in Feb & March 2015. This was really interesting because Dawn and I flew our Piper Pacer through the Bahamas in late March 2015, and in fact it turns out we crossed paths with Windbird in a most serendipitous way. On Sunday, March 29th, Windbird was cruising from Warderick Wells to Hawksbill Cay in the Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park. Judy wrote:
We skipped Hawksbill Cay on our way south, so we were elated that we got the opportunity to stop here today. It is billed as the most beautiful island in the Exumas. I’m not sure I totally agree with that, but it does have an interesting coastline. It has outcroppings of what I call the ‘prickly’ limestone (jagged and sharp) as well as layered limestone that that is much smoother. We are moored right in front of the entrance to a creek that goes inland a bit and there are beautiful white sand beaches. There are lots of snorkeling spots here, but by the time we got here, it was well after low tide so we chose not to snorkel. Instead, we picked up Lee and Lynda in our dinghy and headed about a mile north to a little beach with a path to some old Loyalist ruins.

Meanwhile, my brother Steve and I had landed in Nassau to pick up Dawn, who was flying in from Minneapolis on Delta. We hopped over to Norman's Cay on the northern end of the Exuma to meet up with friends who were flying a second airplane...
Then we took off together and flew formation for 32 stunning miles of the Exuma Islands chain: the turquoise of the Grand Bahama Bank to the west, bleached cays and scrub-covered islets, shallow lagoons, narrow cuts, pristine reefs, empty sugar-sand beaches, and the deep dark blue of the Atlantic to the east.

During this flight we flew over the Exuma Land and Sea Park including Hawksbill Cay, right around the time that Mark and Judy were exploring the Loyalist ruins while Windbird bobbed at anchor. Dawn and I loved the almost surreal beauty of the Exumas and couldn't believe we were flying over it in our own airplane, but I also noticed all the boats negotiating the mazelike chain and thought "what I wouldn't give for a sailboat and a month or two of free time to explore around here!" As it turned out, this flight and our other explorations of the Bahamas that week would be one of the catalysts for our decision later in 2015 to sell everything and go cruising sooner rather than later. And as it turns out, we were flying over our future boat at the time!

Note: I also wrote an article about our March 2015 flying/sailing trip for Flying Magazine. You can read the online version here.

1 comment:

  1. The convergence of the boat and you in the Bahamas last year is more than merely fortuitous. What a great catch in your photo collection. Loving reading about your adventure - keep it coming, Sam!