For the past five years, I have longed for the beach on the northeast side of Shroud Cay, Camp Driftwood, with water of the most magical blue and soft white oolitic sand.
As I worked to save money for this trip, the image of this beach beckoned me. Throughout every part of our journey, I longed for this beach. Even after the storm, I wanted Camp Driftwood.
It is not so easy to arrive at Camp Driftwood, especially without an outboard motor for your dinghy. We are lamenting our decision not to buy an outboard in the states. Our trolling motor is essentially worthless in this setting. We are quite possibly the only people in the Bahamas silly enough to row their dinghy. But while rowing a family of four around is no small task, we are determined to experience as much as possible. And our family is blessed with Joey, who dutifully helps to make all of our dreams a reality. So, he agreed to try for Camp Driftwood.
It all depended on the tide.
If we could catch an outgoing tide to ride the creek there, we could wait for slack tide and ride the flow back. Then the hardest part would be the one mile row from our boat to the mouth of the creek. As soon as we arrived in the Exumas, I started paying attention to the tides. On the day we wanted to venture to Camp Driftwood, low tide was around 9:00 AM. We needed to leave the boat by 8:00 AM, in order to make it to the creek before the tide started flowing back in. For our family, leaving the boat by 8 would be a miracle in itself. But I was determined. As I went to bed, after making sure everything was packed and in order, the wind started blowing hard. I listened to it blow all night and wondered if we should even try. At 7:00 AM, it was still blowing. At 8:00 AM, we were still hemming and hawing about whether or not we should go. After hearing the weather report at 8:15, which forecasted rain the following day, we decided to go for it. We left the boat at 8:40. Joey rowed us to the mouth of the creek in an hour, against the wind. The current had already started to flow, just barely. I took over the rowing.
Joey helped me out by wading and swimming when he could. By the time we got close to Camp Driftwood, the tide was flowing pretty good and the wind was hard at our nose. Joey took the oars again and made the final push to get us there.
I will be forever grateful.
As much as I needed to journey to this particular place, I also had to battle with my mind. Perhaps it was the storm that had upset our reality recently. Or maybe it was part of my cycle as a woman. Or it was the Mama Bear in me. Whatever the cause, all of my fears and concerns erupted in my mind and body as we rowed up the creek to Camp Driftwood. I had felt it coming on, even before the storm. I'd been having a hard time finding my balance and my bravery. My doubts traveled from my brain to my belly. On the outside, I kept it at bay, but so much was happening beneath the surface. But then we reached the beach, this place that I had been longing for. My feet sunk in the soft sand and the sound of wind and waves swept over me. I decided it was time to let it all go, so I eagerly joined the family for a swim and wiped the slate clean.
As we played in the water, Tropicbirds flew overhead. Tropicbirds spend most of their time at sea. They only come to land for breeding. They glide with the wind and frolic in the sky.
Watching then reminded me to release my fears and soar. Life is full of challenges and beauty, together, always. Instead of fighting the process, one must embrace it and revel in it. I remembered connecting with these birds as a younger adult woman ten years ago. I was a new Captain, journeying with students and myself. Seeing these birds always validated my presence in this setting. As they flew overhead, I knew that I had made it somewhere special. And I knew that I belonged. While I experienced this again, with my family, I realized why I needed to make the journey to Camp Driftwood. I needed to reconnect with that part of me from so long ago, from before I was a woman with children and before I had so much to feel vulnerable about.
Pearl and I snorkeled the mangrove creek on the way back. We saw lots of mature conch.
That is the other part about this mangrove creek that I adore. Shroud Cay is part of the Exuma Land and Sea Park, where fishing and harvesting is prohibited. Conch make for good eating. So, I never see mature conch on Andros Island anymore. I love that conch have somewhere to be safe. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy. I also love that my daughter becomes incredibly excited about each and every sea creature, even if it is the twentieth sea urchin that she has seen in the last five minutes. While holding her hand and looking for underwater wildlife, I felt boundless joy.
Pearl and Joey's poem about snorkeling:
Oh I sure do like a snorkeling
'bout as much as anything
the colors that the sun does bring
from the fishes and their scales-o.
With my face below the waves so steep
I peer down in water deep
to where the sharks and stingrays sleep
and creep and peep out of their holes-o.
And when I'm done and dry and clean
from my memory I will glean
the names and things I have seen
and write them in my journal-o.
And when I'm snorkeling
one of the names of the fish I see
is butter, butter, butterfly fish
and they have scales, scales, scales
like all of the other fish I've seen
when I'm snorkeling.
Update as of August 2013: It recently came to my attention that boats with outboard motors are no longer allowed in the tidal creeks that lead to Camp Driftwood. So, really our dinghy didn't inconvenience us at all.