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Watercolors

Continuing “Trekking by Sail, Exuma Islands”

At 7:30am it was warm and windless as I walked to breakfast past heavy, punch-colored blooms and lemon-blossomed trees. I had thought to grab breakfast early and then write for awhile, but soon was reminded that I was on Bahamas time by a cheerful waitress that took one and a half hours to serve my cold cereal and yogurt (unopened).

We piled our gear in a van and bumped down the road to Barraterre, where our Sea Pearls waited docilely at the dock. A warm wind began to ruffle lacy waves in the bay as everyone loaded tents, camp chairs, snorkeling gear, drybags, and icy coolers onto the fleet. I sat on the bow of Dallas’s chase boat, unable to unglue my gaze from the water.

The scene looked as if it had been conjured on canvas by a painter. Cool, dense islands floated in this expansive blue pool, a luminous, saturated, complex patchwork of hues. Lonely clusters of palm trees arched gracefully in the wind, and a colorful fish caught my eye as it flicked silently under the shaded dock. As we sailed away from the pilings, a cottonball cloud threw a shadow on the clear water, and I watched over the gunwhale when we skimmed out from underneath it and the water instantly electrified to an intense, liquid aquamarine.


For the rest of the day, with Bob Marley beating rhythms, I watched the kaleidoscope of the Exumas unfold and shapeshift around me. The baby-blue sky looks weak when it hits the royal jade color of the sea. The Sea Pearls’ bright white-and-yellow sails punctuate the horizon, sailing out of dark cerulean areas into brilliant white, across alleys of electric emerald, skirting pools of “Bombay Sapphire blue.” Enormous spotted eagle rays fly 7 feet beneath us, and purple starfish sit clearly on the bottom. As I marvel at it all, guides Ian and Dallas pick several silver fish off their line and drop them in a bucket for dinner.

As we slid up to our beach camp for the evening, the water became warm butterscotch amber in the shallows. We swam and cooled our toes in the cream-of-tartar silt on the bottom, then splashed off with fresh water from a solar shower that was warming in a pine tree. As fish crackled on the grill and the sun set over the water, the greens and blues turned purple and gray to complement a firey sunset. I had spent the entire day completely mesmerized by the color of the water. It’s clarity is unparalleled, and I’ve had trouble finding any words that approximate its stunning shades.

Later under the almost-full moon, the group turned their attention to a backwoods “surgery.” Tom had stepped on a sea urchin and had thirteen souvenirs lodged in his foot. I chuckled (perhaps under the influence of a bit of Bombay Sapphire) to realize that we’d all been baptized by the beautiful water of the Bahamas that day…but Tom had gotten himself indelibly marked.

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