I am sitting in a canvas folding chair, my bare feet soaking in several inches of water that is warm and transparent. From this pristine beach, I can see nothing except the vibrant blues and greens of the sea and the puffy cumulus overhead. I have no idea where I am.
Well, that's not actually true. I know generally where I am but, mentally, the sugary-soft sand oozing between my toes might be in the Seychelles, somewhere in French Polynesia, or far down island in the Caribbean. While enjoying this paradise, I am pondering the profound question: How far is "far away?"
I could be on a tropical beach anywhere in the world. I am completely at peace, no phones are ringing, no meetings are on the planner. It is just the sea and me.
In truth, however, I'm really not that far away. Somewhere just over the horizon and under those distant clouds is Nassau. I could be walking through my own front door in the States in just hours. And that was exactly the point of this charter.
For this year and probably several more, long distance travel is out. The rising euro, the falling dollar, and the high price of fuel have knocked the wind from the sails of many travelers. So the five days we spent exploring the waters of the Bahamas aboard Destiny, an aptly named 110-foot Horizon motoryacht, served as a reminder.
Far away is a state of mind.
From the moment the door of our American Eagle puddlejumper opened onto the Nassau airport and the warm tropical breeze rushed in, I began to unwind. Island time is s-l-o-w but we zipped through customs and grabbed a taxi to the Nassau Harbour Club on Bay Street. The crew of Destiny was watching for us and, in moments, our luggage had disappeared into our cabins. We were seated on the shaded afterdeck with chilled flutes of mimosas and Bloody Marys to rid our palates of any dust from our trip and, to tide us over until lunch, a lovely array of icy fruit arrived. Take a deep breath and sigh.
Capt. Mike Nesbitt and his mate, Trini Smith, are a legend in the Bahamas, having pretty much "owned" the charter market in Nassau on a succession of ever-larger yachts. This is not a starched-uniform-call-me-Captain sort of team, but one that reflects relaxed island life.
That doesn't mean the Destiny crew doesn't get things done quick-quick, however. A pair of big diesels coughed to life, lines were cast off, and soon we were sliding past opulent waterfront homes, Oprah's included, toward open water.
Where were we headed? We didn't know. Mike Nesbitt had asked where we'd like our charter to go when we first started discussing it with Julie Nicholson at Nicholson Yacht Charters. "Away," we said, " far away."
"Leave it to me," was Nesbitt's answer and it became his secret we'd know when he told us we were there.
Once clear of Nassau Harbor, Destiny headed southeast across the Yellow Bank but we were blissfully unaware, tucked as we were in the cool salon and supported by soft cushions. Lunch was in the formal dining area and our group, exhausted by the grueling one-hour flight from Ft. Lauderdale, was soon napping as the pink towers of Atlantis faded in the distance.
Destiny is well arranged for two couples plus kids or friends, with a spacious main-deck master suite and a lower-deck VIP suite, both with king-sized berths. Two more large guest cabins have oversized twins, and all are en suite.
Age (mine) and beauty (hers) dictated that we took the master, which had an Evan Marshall split-level design with the head, spa tub, and shower on a lower level, entered via a dressing area surrounded by hanging lockers. Big windows brought in light, and a Sony Bravia 42-inch flat-screen had oodles of channels with satellite reception.
The sound of slowing engines brought us up to the fully covered fly-bridge, with its oversized jacuzzi spa, bar, and lounge areas. We were just entering the marina at Highborne Cay, which is not only well-protected and flat calm, but surrounded by appealing white beaches. Even before the gangplank was out, the first order of business was a frothy glass of Trini's concoction du jour to celebrate our arrival.
Part of our crew headed for the tin-roofed store to browse the Bahamian souvenirs, while others wandered over to the beach, where hammocks and lounge chairs awaited. Wading ankle deep into the water showed that air and water temperatures were the same, and it was hard to tell where one started and the other ended.
As the sun drifted into an azure sea, we gathered around the dining table again (see where this is headed?) to enjoy bacon-wrapped filet medallions and potato stacks, accented with asparagus spears. This was followed by an artfully sliced pineapple topped with caramel: lots of calories but worth every one of them!
The next morning, we took the 18-foot Nautica tender to Allen's Cay, one of the remaining habitats of a subspecies of the Bahamian rock iguana. There are several low cays and Leaf Cay is often crowded with day-boats from Nassau, so Nesbitt took us instead to S.W. Allen's Cay, a deep U-shaped cove with a white-sand beach.
As soon as we stepped ashore, the undergrowth began to move and several posses of oddly prehistoric creatures came waddling down to see who would dare to trespass on their turf. There were soon dozens of iguanas-some as long as four feet with ridged spines and armored heads-on the beach. It was a fascinating and compelling event, being face-to-face with these small dragons. We lingered in the warm water, finally tearing ourselves away with the promise of a snorkeling treat.
Capt. Nesbitt had a "special spot" nearby-a reef with a sandy bottom-and it wasn't long before everyone was in the water enjoying the tropical fish and bright coral. Though we stuck close to the surface, Destiny is also set up for scuba diving, with an onboard compressor, multiple tanks, and PADI-certified crew. Back aboard the boat, guests enjoyed hot showers, followed by panini sandwiches, while the crew took in lines and departed from Highborne Cay. Later, our anchor rattled down off Shroud Cay and we enjoyed skewered scallops with lime and scallop rumakis as the sun set. Our band adjourned to the hot tub on the upper deck to enjoy a bubbly soak with icy champagne in the absolute darkness far from city lights.
The third day brought a special surprise. Nesbitt's crew bustled around early, departing in the tender while we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast on the afterdeck, followed by a spin on the Waverunners to explore the nearby coves.
At lunchtime, Nesbitt gathered us into the tender and headed into a mangrove creek on the island. The Jungle Cruise at Disneyland had nothing on this adventure. Rounding a bend, we found ourselves at a perfectly prepared beach picnic. The crew had set up tents, barbecues, tables, canvas chairs, and had even created a miniature golf course in the soft sand to challenge the Tiger Woods among us.
All I can say is that the afternoon was a haze of pleasure. Sitting in the chair with my feet in the water, munching on hamburgers and hot dogs, throwing my golf club in a fit of pique: It was all delightful and perfectly executed (except for my golf game!) The brave among us paddled just offshore in the clear green waters where an occasional current would suddenly sweep them into the creek. They would return and do it all over again, like kids enamored of a water slide.
Our next stop was Norman's Cay, but with a sidestep. Following us through our adventures had been Lucky, a 53-foot Viking sportfisherman that was fully rigged for all manner of gamefish. In the morning, we boarded her and headed through a cut where, once again, Captain Nesbitt had a "secret" spot guaranteed to raise fish. And raise fish we did, bringing in brilliantly colored dolphin, not to mention a very cranky barracuda.
That evening, we went ashore via tender to Norman's Cay Beach Club, known to cruisers worldwide by its previous name, MacDuff's. A rough-hewn getaway with planked floors and thatched palm roof, the conch chowder was to die for and a couple of Goombay Smashes encouraged us to sample the Bahamian macaroni and cheese. Adding to the flavor of the place was a bachelor party, complete with inflatable doll. Enough said.
The next morning, eggs Benedict on the afterdeck began our last day aboard and all too soon it was anchors aweigh, with the bow turned toward Nassau.
We had been wined, dined, entertained, and pampered. The BlackBerrys had stayed, forgotten, in the bureau drawers under the extra T-shirts. Though Destiny has WiFi throughout, laptops were as alien to our world as the iguanas. It had been an exercise in getting away.
And yet, in no at time at all, we were back in Nassau, then stateside, then back in our own homes.
"Far away" truly is a state of mind.
Destiny is managed by The Marine Group, (954) 463-4300; www.marinegroup.com and is available through all reputable charter brokers. She is based in Nassau year-round at a rate of $37,500 plus expenses, with the sportfisherman Lucky available separately.