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An Outlier at the Beach Party By John Herlig

As with all aspects of cruising, it takes time to find your groove connecting with other cruisers.

T

he threat of a north wind never fails to drive boats towards protected waters in the Bahamas. I was departing Hawksbill Cay at the northern end of the Exuma Land and Sea Park, and after a quick scan of the charts I decided that Ave del Mar and I would skip Warderick Wells, our intended next stop, and opt instead for the security of anchoring in well-protected Cambridge Cay just to its south. Always the outlier, I anchored all alone south of the mooring field, settling in over soft sand in 12 feet of clear Bahamian water and feeling good about my defenses against the coming low-pressure system and its clocking winds. As the

afternoon lazily unfolded, I watched mooring after mooring get gobbled up by boats of every sort—big, shiny monohulls with teak decks, blazing-white catamarans with surf boards tied off to their rails under sky-high masts, and motor yachts of every description. Shouts and waves from boat to boat let you know who knew whom as buddy boaters settled in together and old friends reunited, exchanging excited radio calls. Ave and I were in an easy rhythm sailing the stunning Exuma islands with simple, drama-free days of short sailing hops down the island chain. With little to do after anchoring, I settled down on the settee with a book, staying clear of

the afternoon sun. Before long I heard an outboard approach. Popping my head out of the companionway I saw an inflatable pulling alongside the cockpit. “We’re having a happy hour on the beach at 5 p.m.,” said the man at the helm of the dinghy. “You are invited to come. Bring your own drink.” I thanked him, and he buzzed off to spread the news, a floating town crier of the mooring field. Cruisers often fall into easy-toidentify groups despite our cries of ferocious independence. I do not fall into the happy-hour-on-the-beachwith-strangers group—I’m more of an argue-philosophy-in-the-

##Ave del Mar in Hawksbill Cay.

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