Berry Grateful

We’ve been dealing with an if-then-else flow chart of circumstances for a while but it’s time we made some decisions. Hurricane season is upon us. Our three previous seasons made getting out of a hurricane zone easy. Not this one… hurricanes, huh, bring ‘um on, considering alternatives. We figured we’d just extend our stay and watch the weather closely. If a hurricane comes, then we’ll leave. Until then, we’ll just stay in our Berry Islands Bubble and continue to be grateful for finding a COVID-free and peaceful eden where everyone is living in quarantine harmony. Else, the hurricane season this year is predicted to be above average in terms of activity, and it is, so that’s decision making time. We’ve been to too many hurricane ravaged islands to feel very comfortable with the choice to stay, unfortunately. A few vigorous weather patterns have already passed over and it’s very unsettling to get gusts of 50 knots. Maybe after a few years we’ll feel differently, but now, at our 3 year anniversary mark, we’d rather not. We don’t want to be under the daily pressure and fear of it getting worse… though we seriously contemplated it.

Daily outings found us here. Low tide on “Shelling Beach” revealed all sorts of quiet wonders and usually not a soul in sight. Just lots of time to examine your own. Why leave?

Morning walks provided exercise, meditation and a great dose of nature therapy.

Our afternoon swims during the hottest part of the day were particularly soothing.

We’ve been very grateful for finding ourselves here on Great Harbour Cay (GHC) during this time. There’s been a small group of us, growing smaller each day as many are making their way back home. Our Canadian mates will have to stay in quarantine for two weeks once they’ve landed. As sailors do, we’ve watched out for one another and we’ve become each other’s family units. The GHC Marina staff has made us feel safe and protected when day-to-day, there was so much uncertainty around the world. We will remember them fondly and consider ourselves lucky to have landed in this remote gem of a place. Even the owner of the grocery store, one of the few people we’d see regularly in close proximity under lockdown, will have a special place in my heart. With her Bahamian gentility, she’d call me “baby” and ask how we were doing and if we were alright. This made a stressful exposure-potential outing to the grocery store a lot less stressful. She ran that place like a well-oiled machine and made sure safety measures were being taken. Without a mask, you were not allowed in. There was a hand-sanitizer dispenser attached to the wall and “6-feet” distance markers taped to the floor. Mind you, the size of the store only needed two floor markers. The close proximity made her deliberate attitude to keep it safe that much more important. But on a daily basis we’d encounter more things of the sea, than humans. At low tide in particular, the shallow tide pools offered all sorts of sea life and often the company of a baby shark or barracuda slowly swimming parallel to the shore that my walking would out pace.

Sea biscuits, sand dollars, and sea sponges (sea sponges are incredibly simple creatures that have lived on the earth for hundreds of millions of years… makes ya wonder about convoluting life in relation to survival). A day’s find seemed to be themed, as the tide would bring in a certain variety of things of the sea. One day was starfish day. Didn’t have my camera that day.

These guys in varying sizes and color were everywhere. They’d scurry or swim away, dig holes or bury themselves in an instant! If dead, it was usually ravaged by a bird but this little one was whole.

This is a live sand dollar. You can see how it’s “walked” along the sand with its cilia. Photo compliments of Sea Sister Cathy on s/v Ketch 22. This was a rare sighting on our long morning walks. Most sand dollars were washed up dead and often crumbled. I must admit… usually don’t have my camera for some of the best shots but Cath did on this day.

We spotted this yellow-crowned night-heron darting off with dinner. It looked like the crab pictured above, but a bit bigger.

Two nurse sharks and two lemon (we believe) feeding on the island’s only commercial fisherman’s scraps as he cleaned his daily catch.

Sting rays were very common and this was a medium sized one. I learned hammerhead sharks like to eat them, so the gin clear water made swimming that much more enjoyable since you can see what’s coming sans dive mask.

We believe this is a sea cucumber based on Wikipedia’s very accurate description. Would you believe there are over 1700 species?

Grateful for the time and safety we’ve had here, we’re now one of two occupied boats left. All are gone save s/v London Calling, with Capt. Ron (Ronald) from England, as he’s in a unique situation thanks to the COVID pandemic. It’s not good weather timing for him to cross the Atlantic to go home as planned, but he needs a visa to enter the U.S. and the Embassy is simply not issuing them. GHC Marina is now home for him perhaps until October, as he’s faced with potentially dealing with hurricane season. Gary and Nancy (with canine mates Quinn and Katie) on m/v GarNak discovered on their trip back home to Canada via the Intracoastal Waterway that some maritime locks are closed due to the pandemic, until August. They’re waiting it out in North Carolina. Not exactly a hurricane friendly zone to wait out in either.

Gary and Nancy shoving off. Before leaving Nancy gave me a signed copy of her book, Emma’s Gift. All proceeds go to animal rescue so my four-legged-loving niece got her own copy in the mail.

Our quarantine mate, Ronald, during one of our trips to Shark Creek.

This sea turtle‘s shell was stunning. Pic compliments of Capt. Ron.

These land crabs were abundant. I usually saw them on my walks across the island on a sandy path through the bush. This was by far the largest one we spotted wedged between the dock pilings.

Though the cruel realities of the world have not made life simpler, our bubble here has. This was due mostly thanks to the marina management working with local law enforcement when strict blanket laws started being dispensed by the Prime Minister. Mind you the PM was doing what he needed to do to protect his country, one consisting of 700 islands and cays, often one very different from the other. Months prior we had tucked into the marina for a squally weather spell and again when Daniel got stuck so he could have more of a home base for his online close of the semester. Marina management knew our previous months’ whereabouts had been sailing around uninhabited islands of the Berrys. Even though a “foreign flagged vessel” it was understood that we were not an infection threat but rather should be treated like the other 400 residents, the manager argued. And thanks to his advocacy, we were. Living on a small island with bare-bones infrastructure while daily life is tentative, has been a gift of our good-natured and practical Bahamian hosts. When mobility became limited and social interaction banned, we found solace and an even deeper than your average contentment in the simplicity of nature and abundant beauty on the island in the short distances we were allowed to roam. Mind you, the island was 7 X 2.5 miles, so the distances were very short. Socializing was limited to smiles and waves from afar. During our brief outings, delights of land were just as mesmerizing as the sea’s.

Apparently there are peacocks in the Bahamas. They were introduced years ago and on some islands flourished.

This island is always in bloom, everywhere you look. There were large, pink petunia-like blossoms on tall trees, bougainvillea in every color you can imagine, entire trees in brilliant reds and yellows… even in the thick green brush there are these entwined. “Contemplate the flower and learn about life.” E. Tolle

I interrupted this guy’s lunch plans. He was about to pounce on a large lizard as I came rambling along the path. In my research I found nothing that looked like this guy. Do you know what kind of snake it is?

These wee creatures clung to trees and bushes everywhere and made ordinary dead logs a thing of fairy land. And in my research I believe it was discovered they are the rarest snails on earth!

These are white ibis. The first time I saw a flock of them sitting in a tree was in Georgia, it was fascination at first sight. Here we’d see them grazing in a large field. This couple came to the marina to forage. Thank you Ronald for letting me use your fancy camera for this one. Nice resolution.

As our Berry Island Bubble bursts, we can’t help but bring to mind the work of marine biologist Wallace J. Nochols’ book Blue Mind. Nichols connects neuroscience and psychology, in a nutshell, to correlate how a healthy relationship to water – any body of water – can essentially heal growingly persistent ills of humanity. We firmly believe that in his book, Nichols methodically and scientifically reveals something very powerful in what ancient sages have known for thousands of years, instinctively and anecdotally. As I see it, the blue mind affect he describes extends to the ethic of care and mutual dependence we have as humans to our earth and each other: land, water and its inhabitants. It is encompassed in a larger socio-ecological approach to human well-being and health through our direct connection to nature which is a matter of survival. Pre-covid studies show nearly 70% of the population living in urban areas by 2050. It needs to be a deliberate effort in urban planning and restructuring; even the densest of cities can have green parks with trees and a pond. Research in ecopsychology has shown natural spaces strengthen human connections and heal the mind, the spirit and the body. The research is ever-growing but the belief already an integral part of existence for some walks of life, whether in, daily weekly or annual rituals. Studies show the affect takes about 2.5 hours to take hold and needs to be more than mere images. Nevertheless, here’s a final 8 minute video to provide a virtual interaction for now, until you can come sailing with us. May the blue mind affect take hold in the minutest of ways and provide a tiny dose of healing and large dose of inspiration to seek it out, as we are all connected on this Mother Earth.



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