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Cruising With The Chilbergs: Perfect Days In Nature ... 44 Years Apart (BLOG)

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“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.

Explore … Dream … Discover”

—Mark Twain

“Anxiety is the price of the ticket to life. Intra-psychic depression is the byproduct of our refusal to climb aboard.”

—James Hollis

There are many days that we feel lazy and a malaise falls over us. It is sort of like a dull headache. We want to “go for it,” but fear, lethargy, or peer pressure gets in our way. Sometimes however, we do manage to go for it and that makes all the difference.


A Nurse Shark Below.

One of my great experiences of this was December 26, 1972. Dennis Edwards, my college roommate, Harry Harlow, the brother of my college girlfriend, and I piled our surfboards on top of my 1966 Mustang, put in an 8-Track tape of the Beach Boys, and departed for our Surfing Safari in Mexico. About 30 miles south of Tijuana, we pulled the car onto a lookout over the Pacific Ocean.

There, with an off-shore breeze, was a point break of 6- to 8-foot waves curling perfectly before us. We grabbed our boards, threw on our wetsuits and enjoyed the most perfect waves that I had ever experienced surfing. Each of us would paddle out around the break and catch ride after ride. The waves were so big, that as we disappeared down the face of the wave, all that could be heard was a scream of ecstasy by the rider as the other two awaited the next perfect wave.

As the sunset about 5 PM, we sat by the fire and recalled each ride. Our muscles were aching and we were exhausted, but were filled with satisfaction and joy. The canned dinner was gourmet as we had not left the water all day and were starving. We could have stayed home, watched TV and prepared for the upcoming college bowl games. Instead, we went for it. We got up early, braved the cold Pacific winter water and took a chance and wow, was it worth it!

Clear water and coal... nothing better.

Clear water and coal... nothing better.

Yesterday, Lee’s granddaughters, Deleah and Sierra, had a similar experience. They joined me on a long trip in the dinghy about 7 miles from Tahiti Beach on Elbow Cay down to the Sandy Cay Diving Reef. We bounced along the waves for nearly half an hour, experienced a 6-foot roller go under us from the North Bar Channel Cut, and arrived at the reef. The water was crystal clear, as we tied Puddle Jumper to a mooring and climbed into the aquarium-like arena of nature.

No sooner than we entered the water, a 6-foot nurse shark swam right under us. This ominous yet harmless creature was just feet below as we looked down into his eyes. While he was totally uninterested in us, we were fascinated with him. He was such a contrast to the delicate and bright reef fish around us.

We proceeded over the large stag horn coral that grew up off the rocks and white sand bottom below us.

Countless varieties of bright fish swam by us, as we glided over the wide array of colorful corals around us.The girls wanted to see one of the large spotted eagle rays that often frequent this reef. We so hoped that one would oblige. They tend to run over the sand in about 15 feet of water just off the reef. Well, we left the center of the reef and moved along the border where white sand meets a mountain of coral. I must confess that I was somewhat skeptical that our magnificent butterflies of the sea would swim by us. I was getting ready to give up when a large dark creature began to appear from the depths.

YES! Here he came past us. I dove down with camera in hand, but he moved quickly and was too far away for a great picture. The girls had not seen him, so I was afraid that we missed our chance. Minutes later, Sierra exclaimed, “There is one right under us!”

The spotted Eagle Ray, our prized sighting of the day.

The spotted Eagle Ray, our prized sighting of the day.

I looked down, and there beneath us was a beautiful spotted eagle ray slowly moving under us. This time I dove right down on top of him and got the best pictures I have ever gotten of these magnificent animals. He kindly cooperated and let me swim only a few feet above him as he posed for pictures, as if he were appearing on the Red Carpet at the Academy Awards!

The awe of watching this fabulous creature glide effortlessly below us was a sight to be seen. We felt like we were in a Jacque Cousteau Documentary, as we enjoyed live show beneath us. Yes, there are many incredible options in the Abacos for enjoyment and entertainment. But, the live experiences of nature that avail themselves before us, is tough to replicate or surpass.

The trip back to Mud Puddle Rose seemed faster and less bumpy, as we remained in the “High” of some of nature’s finest creatures. The strength and power of a shark … the Monet colors of the reef fish … and the Baryshnikov-like grace of the Spotted Eagle Ray were a show we will always cherish. Plus I am too old to surf anymore!

Catch more of Joe's adventures aboard Mud Puddle Rose in the Bahamas on his blog, here.