I was met there by ex-VUCC member Julio, who is currently living in the Bahamas and my excuse for going there. We headed off down to Key-West for a long weekend. Not many rivers that way - in fact they wouldn't count if there were since the whole of South Florida does not get higher than 2 metres above sea level. And that's the truth.
Then back to Miami and then a quick (I've been waiting to say this a while) trip on the private jet over to the Bahamas - 20 minutes by jet, 1 hour by commercial airline (but who flies that way, yuck!).
And so the start of my kayaking adventure. The Bahamas gets up to a wild and crazy 20 metres above sea level, but even with all that altitude to lose, there's not much in the way of river paddling as the water all gets absorbed into the coral rock which makes up the many islands and reefs around there. In fact I don't recall seeing a single river. But the beaches! Seriously, the clearest, most beautiful water I've ever seen - beats Pupu Springs for clarity and certainly for warmth (a balmy 26-28 degrees). Only slightly spoiled by the small amounts of rubbish piling up on the beaches because they forgot to institute any form of rubbish collection.
Fortunately we had a boat or 2 and could whiz out to the outer islands for a spot of snorkelling (keeping a little look out for big fish at all times), water-skiing and wake-boarding (or trying to in some of our cases) and tuna-fishing. All of course only when the surf wasn't up to take out the two surf skis. Which it never was. So in the main paddling consisted of a bit of island exploring and just a bit of exercise, since there was virtually no wind on any single day (though we made a few desperate attempts with the sail-boat too). That is unless you count the torrential thunderstorms that came through most days, but then the risk of lightening was too high to venture out far, since we tended to be the tallest things around!
All this is until the day we decided to venture around the island we were living on. We were fairly sure this would be a first descent/ascent/circumnavigation by manual powered craft as everyone there is too lazy to do anything but turn on the outboard motor, so off we set. All was fine in the harbour - flat, warm, shallow, but as we rounded the point we were a little surprised to feel a gentle breeze on our faces and notice a little turbulence on the water. Perhaps a light head wind we thought. Then we rounded the next point and hmmm I hadn't quite seen it this rough before, perhaps a little cross-wind.
Now we were still near humanity and shallowness, with many Americanos on the beaches. But as we headed across the bay to open-water, it was not only getting rougher and there were not only many jet-skis to hit us but we realised we had no buoyancy aids on and the water was fast getting deeper. And now it appeared to be a tail wind as well. And the surf skis are quite hard to get back on in a chop (not that I had to try). After about two hours battling, we neared the western entrance to the harbour, but my hopes were dashed when I realised that to enter the narrow entrance we had to contend with a large swell hitting rocks in all directions. This hope died altogether when Julio announced we were over one of the deepest trenches in that part of the Caribbean at 3000 feet below us. I almost fell over just at the thought. But then a big wave came in and picked me up and before I knew it I was through the entrance and in the harbour and surfing along remembering that it was all fun after all. There is a god! Then it was a jolly pleasant paddle back up the harbour past the estates and guard dogs (some of them can swim!!) of sheikhs and oilmen, to home. It had only taken three nervy hours, just slightly over the hour we had estimated.
There are several morals to this story: there's fun to be had everywhere; wear a buoyancy aid even in the tropics on a dead flat calm day; don't go to the Bahamas if you want river paddling; do go if you want nice beaches; only go in winter if you want consistent wind or surf; and don't take a black bikini - it only makes you look even whiter.
Kate (Occasional VUCC roaming correspondent - just look where kayaking can take you).
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