Adventures of s/v WILD HAIR


Our land life took on form, solidity, routine. We had mastery of a limited set of skills. We had habitual expectations of others and ourselves. Going sailing, we let go of our attachments to our roles, views, and rituals. We persist because we are growing in this shapeless and dynamic world.

Friday, June 25, 2010


MONDAY, MAY 1, 2010—With great anticipation, Dave and I arrived to the shores of Conception Island. Known as “a paradise in paradise,” Conception Island is a preserved wilderness area managed by the Bahamas National Trust. Hidden crescent-shaped beaches, long-tailed tropic birds, turtles, and miles of mature coral reefs promised entertaining exploration in the days ahead.

As soon as we dropped anchored, I jumped into the crystal clear water with my snorkel gear to make sure the anchor had a proper grip in the sand. It did. I relished the cool water as I paddled around the boat feeling my core temperature drop. I marveled at the starkness of the underwater environment: no fish or vegetation, just miles of clean sandy bottom. Amazing. I lingered in the water a long time.

As I climbed out and started thinking about dinner, Dave jumped in. He too seemed to enjoy the water as heat, humidity, and the day’s sweat lifted from his body. But then, I saw him spin his body unnaturally. Adjacent to WILD HAIR, Dave started paddling backwards staring at something near his feet: a shark.

Dave had inadvertently jumped into the water with an open cut on his heal. Realizing he attracted the shark, Dave scurried out of the water to safety back on board. He leashed our kitten, Dinghy, so that she couldn’t choose that moment to fall overboard. The shark was massive, agitated, threatening. Normally harmless, this Nurse Shark was greater than six feet in length and it was hungry. Round and round it circled WILD HAIR as it tasted blood and hunted for dinner. Feeling like unwilling prey, I shuddered as I went below decks to make dinner.

“What are you making?” Dave shouted below.

“Sweet and sour Chicken,” I responded.

“What did you put down the sink that drained into the water?” Dave persisted.

“I just rinsed the chicken breasts,” I considered. “Chicken blood?”

“That explains why we now have two sharks!” Dave concluded.

Springing up from below decks I saw a second shark even larger than the first. This fellow was a notoriously mean Lemon Shark. It swam so aggressively around the boat that Dave decided to take action. He swished our boat pole at the water’s surface to attract the animal, and then poked the shark hard on the top of the head with the pole’s pointed end. This further angered the hungry shark and did nothing to deter his search for food.

“What can I feed them to get rid of the things?” Dave queried.

“Feed them?” I asked. “If you feed them they will be attached to WILD HAIR for life!”

Seeing the logic in this, Dave decided to do the only thing we could do, leave them alone.

It was unsettling to eat our meal in the cockpit of the boat as the sharks circled. It was disquieting to watch the pair continue to hunt for blood as the sun slipped below the horizon and the world turned dark. It was a relief to wake in the morning to find the sharks had gone.

In the end, we didn’t swim at Conception Island again. On the second day of our stay, Dave’s cut hadn’t sufficiently healed so we did beach-based activities. On the third day, family issues pulled us out of the wilderness toward an island with an airport. As it turns out, we didn’t have to fly back to Wisconsin; we cut short our visit to Conception Island prematurely. However, neither one of us complained about missing the opportunity to snorkel the pristine reefs of “a paradise in paradise.”

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