SeeDoc sets out on the first leg of a "Visionary Cruise"
November 6, 2008


For years my wife and I, Dr. Tom Vanderpool of Jenks Vision Center in Tulsa, have been talking about going to the Bahamas to provide eye care for island kids who have no access to an eye doctor, eventually going around the world on a “Visionary Trip”, providing vision screening and eye exams to needy children……well this week we started this journey.

On November 6th 2008 we cruised to Bimini aboard our 40ft Endeavour Pilothouse, Cuchipanda, now named SeeDoc. I had already made arrangements for Modern Frames Design to donate fifty frames, as well as fifty pairs of lenses from Transition Optical and, Tom Yancy of I-mage Optical Lab of Tulsa to grind the lenses. Each of these three companies gladly donated all the material and their services for free to make this visionary trip a possibility.

Upon arriving in the crystal clear waters of Bimini we anchored the boat in a beautiful bay right in front of the school.  The Bimini All Age School was so excited to provide the kids with vision problems an opportunity for eye care they quickly converted a small room in the back of the school into a make shift vision clinic. It was great to be able to take kids that couldn’t see clearly across a room and watch the smiles on their face grow bigger and bigger as the needed lenses cleared their eyesight. Over the next three days Susan and I screened all 216 kids in the Bimini All Grades School and identified 70 kids that would require complete eye exams. The eye exams were a challenge and slow going in the primitive conditions, but very rewarding for us.  After four days of testing we ended up ordering 33 pair of glasses for kids on a small island that has no access to an eye doctor.

Below is a log of our trip. We hope you enjoy it.


The day had finally come. We had packed our bags for a months worth of boating, mailed Tom’s equipment and a sampling of the frames to the residence where our boat is docked, bought tickets to Fort Lauderdale and were on our way to Bimini, Bahamas to screen the public school kid’s vision and to hopefully do something good in these times of so much bad.

Tuesday - 11/04/08
We got up at 7:00 am and got ready to leave Tulsa. Natalie came with Chance and took us to the airport. Natalie asked that we please mail Max back after two weeks, since she would miss him terribly. We were however not able to comply with her request as I am quite sure Max would not enjoy the trip in a box to Tulsa. Sorry honey.

We arrived in Fort Lauderdale with no trouble, collected our luggage and our friend Tom Schroeder came and picked us at and took us to the boat. We unloaded our bags and set out to get some groceries and to find a Target store so we could buy Max some toys. The days get long for an almost 3 year old on the boat so it is wise to have a few new toys to spring on him as he gets restless, we have learned from experience. The day soon got too long for our little sailor and we had just gotten a few items at the grocery store before we decided to head back to the boat to get Max in bed.

Wednesday – 11/05/08
The next day we headed out in Tom Schroeder’s old “woody” car on loan to us for our stay in Fort Lauderdale, and soon we had bought $500.00 worth of groceries and supplies. We got everything loaded and put a way on the boat and made ready to leave.

Thursday – 11/06/08
The weather was keeping us state side for a couple of days, so we dropped a hook and anchored out in Silvia Lake in Fort Lauderdale. We got the dinghy down and took Max to the playground a few times and we had some nice days before our crossing to the Bahamas.

Sunday – 11/09/08
After looking at the weather we determined that the only day that would be safe to cross in the next week, was today. So we pulled the anchor up and off we went. The seas were about 2 feet, and even though it was not too bad, I still managed to get sea sick. Tom, as usual took good care of me, giving me anti-nausea medicine (thank you Dr. Jerry) and looking after Max. Max did great! He played with his trains and watched his shows and some of the time he lay with me on the couch, patting my face saying “you ok Momma?”… my two heroes took good care of me.

We arrived in Bimini 5 hours later and I was feeling better. We dropped an anchor and Tom went to get us cleared with Immigration. He returned and we all jumped in the dinghy and went to shore. We went for a walk down main street (there is only one other street, called the High Road, it runs along the ocean/beach side and is …well higher that the other road, which is called.. you got it… the Low road, aka Main street.

Max and Susan in front of the boat at the marina and on The King’s Road

We visited the Straw Market, where ladies sell items made of … 3 guesses??? … yep, straw! Other than that there are several small grocery stores and souvenir stores, one bank and several liquor stores and bars. There is not much to do on the island other than fishing or diving and the locals do not as a rule think of that as entertainment.

We went back to the boat and got ready to make some dinner. On the way we meet Wendy and Mark anchored next to us in a 36” sailboat. They were on their adventure of a lifetime, having sold it all and were on their way to “parts unknown”. After dinner we decided that we had had enough excitement for one day and got ready for bed.

Monday – 11/10/08
Tom got up early and went in search of Mr. Pinder, our contact at the Public School, and also the Art Teacher. He had arranged for the Counselor to pay for our dockage in return for our services to the children of the public school. We were supposed to dock at Big Game Marina, but they were having trouble with their electricity, so Mr. Pinder talked to the owner of Sea Crest Marina and they agreed to let us stay at their marina instead.

We got tied up at our new “home” as Mr. James Pinder came aboard and after visiting for a while, we made arrangement to come to the school the next day at 10:00 am to prepare for the vision screenings and to meet the principle of the school. The hope was that since we were here, the principle might be able to expedite getting us permission to do the vision exams with the Minister of Health, which we had not been able to get concluded before we left Tulsa. They do work on a different schedule here in the Islands than what we are used to ;-)

We meet Mr. Rolle, the principle and he was as excited to get the screening going as we were, so he got on the phone right away and got to work finalizing permissions from the Minister of Health. We all decided that starting the Screening part of the project probably wouldn’t hurt anything, without the official word from the Minister, so we arranged to be back at 1:00 pm that afternoon to set up shop.

We went back to the boat and grabbed some lunch and promptly returned to the school at 1:00 pm. We set up “shop” in a room behind the computer lab, measured out 20 feet and taped the eye charts to the wall. We were ready for tomorrow, 9:00 am.

Max crashed for a long nap and Tom and I rested and read our books. When Max woke up we decided to head for the beach. The weather has been great except for the high winds. We walked a block to the beach and Max built rock castles. For dinner we had steak and lobster, it was great. Susan said it was the best feast she has had on the trip.

Tuesday – 11/11/08
At 9:00 am we were at the school and started with the 1st graders. Mr. Pinder brought 5 kids at a time and our work had started. We worked until school was out at 3:00 pm and saw grades 1st -3rd and 7th grade that first day, approximately 90 kids and found 23 kids who needed to return for a full eye exam.

Tom doing an eye exam while another student gives her name before her exam

Max had been a good boy. He had played with his trains and said hello to all of the kids as they came in to the room and soon Max was a famous little guy. As we left the school, all of the kids wanted to see Max and touch him, but he did not like that too much. I guess if 50 kids surround you and all try to touch you and you are the littlest guy there, it would be intimidating to you too. So I whisked Max out of there and he was soon his happy self again. We returned to the boat feeling whipped. 90 screenings in one and one half hours is a lot of screenings, but we felt good about our day’s work.

Wednesday – 11/12/08
We got up and made ready to head back to the school. We had arranged to be there at 9:00 am to continue the screenings. Mr. Rolle had found a way to circumvent the Minister of Health, by sending letters home to the parents asking for permission for their child to have a vision screening and if needed a full eye exam. Sounded good to us... So we continued our work.

The public school of Bimini is a very old school, the coach went to school there as did his mother and grandmother.  We learned that the 4-6th grades were at another campus due to a fire in the building where they were housed. Next door to the school used to be housing for the police department, but December last year, when a police officer shot a citizen in the back of the head, a riot arose and the citizens burned down the complex. Unfortunately this was also where 4-6th grades had classes (they were not on campus during the riot as it was Christmas break we learned later) so they no longer had a place for those grades. Up the street about a mile is a private school and the local basketball hall. Within that facility, called Gateway, they have 4 class rooms that the government is renting to house grades 4-6th as well as one room for administration.

Soon it was 3:00 pm and school was out. We had screened all but the kids that were house at the Gateway Campus, which we will do tomorrow, and had found 51 who needed full eye exams so far. We got back to the boat and once again Max crashed. We took a rest as well and when Max awoke we headed back to the beach. It was pretty windy and we just stayed a short while, and then went for a walk on the High Road.

The dock master, who Tom calls Mr. Grumpy, aka Pat, is....well… kind of grumpy, but in the scheme of things we are very grateful to him, for letting us stay at the marina at no charge, in return for our work at the school. The counselor (which is kind of like their major) is supposed to be compensating the marina for our stay. We are charged for water at $0.30 a gallon and electricity.

Last night Tom’s lobster diver friends came back by, with a boat full of lobster. Of course we bought 4 of them at $5.00 each (what a bargain) and we had lobster and Wahoo which Tom got from a huge fishing boat who tied up just long enough to clear customs, with angel hair Alfredo pasta for dinner. It was quite delicious, even Max like the feast.

Thursday - 11/13/08
We arrived at the Gateway campus at 9:00 am and got to work. We started with the 5th grade and soon the 4th grade came through. We had to wait on the 6th grade as they were down at the clinic being tested for Diabetes, a common problem for the locals due to their poor diet. After an hour we decided to walk down the street to “Sara’s” and get some lunch. Just as we were leaving we saw the kids coming up the road from the clinic, but we decided to go ahead and get some lunch and then return to finish the screening. We had an amazing meal, with some kind of shredded lobster dish and steamed veggies, rice and potato salad, enough for all 3 of us to share. And it was wonderful…Sara is the best cook on the Island, everybody has been telling us that and we have to agree, YUMMY!

Amazingly, the private school students are not very nice to the public school students. The 6th graders were returning from the clinic (Nov. 13th was Diabetic Screening Day), and as they crossed the private school campus, the students threw chairs at the public school children, calling them names. What we learned and what makes it so amazing, is that they all learn the same curriculum, so the fact that the private school children think that they are better then the public school children is quite silly.

We soon got done with the 6th grade kids and headed back to the boat. The principal had given us a ride to the Gateway campus and now we were far from our boat (about 2 miles) and had no way to get back. We decided to use the local transportation, the Tram. For $3.00 you can go from one end of the Island to the other. The Tram never came and Max was asleep in my arms, so Coach Audley Dean’s best friend Anton gave us a ride in his red supercharged golf cart, aka the Big Red Car, very nice of him.

On Bimini there is also a Catholic private school, but it only has grades 1-6th. There are no colleges on the island, for higher education, the children go to Nassau or Miami, but the officials do not want them to go off island, because as a rule they do not return to Bimini.

After Max’s nap we went for a little 30 minute boat ride last night, since we had decided to move the boat to a slip closer to shore in the hopes that we would have a better internet connection, which we now do. Michael, one of the marina workers helped us get tied up. He has been quite helpful and is a very nice man, he gives us golf cart rides to the school in the mornings, which is a long walk with laptop and screening equipment and let’s not forget Max who wants to be carried, the mopeds, golf carts and trucks scare him and there is no side walk, so waking in the street is a little intimidating for him.

Friday - 11/14/08
Friday was a pretty easy day. We played with Max who got up at 6:00 am, and Tom got his bicycle out and went to the school to see what the principle wanted to do about starting the eye exams. Tom came back and reported that he was to start this afternoon at 1:00 pm so we had a little less than 2 hours to get Max a nap and get to the school.

Well, the best laid plans…. Max decided that he was not napping until he was good and ready and since he had gotten up so early, he was a cranky pants all morning. At 12:30 pm he finally decided to tire out, so Tom jumped on his bike and took off for the school on his own. Max slept until 3:15 pm and right as Tom returned and reported that he could not do the 1st graders without me, he did get a few of the 8th graders’ eyes examined. So we decided to go to the beach.

This time we were ready, we had Tupper ware to make sand castles with and bathing suites so we could take Max swimming in the ocean. Max and I had a blast making sand castles and playing on the beach, but he did not want to go in the water to swim. He likes running out until the waves come and then have Tom and I pick him up by his hands and swing him over the water. Tom and Max played on the beach and we had one of the nicest days in a long time… pure joy being the ones you love.

Saturday - 11/15/08
Wow, what a day. Coach Audley (pronounced Oddly) Dean and his girlfriend Anna, went out on the big boat with us today. We went looking for Dolphins to swim with… and we found them.

About an hour after leaving the doc Undou saw two baby dolphins and their mom off of the buoy, and soon they were playing at the front of the boat. We got suited up in our wet suits, fins and snorkel and jumped in. The dolphin played around us for a good 15-20 minutes, coming so close we could practically touch them. It was amazing!! We got out and started moving again and soon they were back, this time with more friends, there were 5 dolphins this time, so we jumped back in and it was the most beautiful experience that I have ever had that did not involve land! Anna, Tom and I swam with the dolphins for another good 15 minutes and one time one came all the way from the bottom of the ocean straight towards me and came so close that we were looking each other in the eye. Truly amazing.

On the Way back we stopped at the Bimini Atlantis beltway and Tom jumped back in to take a look at the ancient rock formation. Max had just woken up from his nap, so I didn’t get to join him on this little adventure, but he said it was quite amazing.

We made it back to the docks at 2:44, which was just in time. The coach had a Flag football game at 3:00pm, so we invited Anna, who is of Dutch descent, 1st generation American, and Undou back for dinner at 6:00pm.

Anna and Coach Dean after swimming with the dolphins

6:00 pm came and went, as did 6:30 pm and 7:00 pm and there was no sign of our new friends. Max, Tom & I were starving so we went ahead and had dinner. At 7:30pm there came a knock on the boat; they were here. There had been a baseball game at the field where the flag football game was to take place and the baseball game had run log, so they were delayed getting their flag football game underway, which made them quite late arriving for dinner. No worries… it’s the islands… we threw some more fish on the grill and served up some more pasta and poured them each a glass of wine and we had a nice evening. Audley took us for a quick tour of the island in his friend’s golf cart, which is only 7.5 miles long and 750 feet wide, the island that is, so it took a short 5 or 7 minutes. We parted ways at the entrance to the marina, with “see ya’ Monday” from everybody…Max is in love with Anna (and the feeling is mutual) and Anna has agreed to come to the boat on Monday and Tuesday mornings to stay with Max while we go to the school and do eye exams. What a great deal.

Sunday – 11/16/08
Sunday was a lazy day. We got up and I made Eggs and Bacon with Toast. It was sunny and beautiful as ever here in paradise, but it was all a bit deceiving…it was 65 degrees and time to break out the long pants and shirts.

We played with Max and we went for a short walk up to the High Road to look at the beach which had some huge waves coming in, we also went to the marina next door (about 20 steps away) and looked at the big Sail Cat moored there. When we got back I put on a load of laundry and got Max down for a nap. I decided to begin making a “real” log of our adventure, since I felt like the beginning of our adventure was missing, which is what I’m doing now as Tom went outside and started polishing the railings. The rest of the day came and went. Max napped for almost 4 hours, I think it all caught up with him and he needed to recharge. We had Filet with baked potatoes for dinner and we all were off to bed shortly after. Tomorrow is our first full day of eye exams.

Monday – 11/17/08
Max got me up before dawn. He was looking for his new friend Anna. I quickly informed him that she would not be here until much later and I go in bed with him and told him to go back to sleep. Which he did NOT do. He sang Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star for me while sliding the pot hole window shade open and closed over and over. He was too excited to go back to sleep and after 10 minutes told me that he was going to get his daddy and make coffee with him. Tom got up with Max and they made coffee and toaster strudels.

At 7:30 am I joined them and got ready for the day, did last night’s dishes and got Max changed and dressed. Anna got here at 8:30 am, ready to play trains with Max. After a few instructions from me, we were off, Max couldn’t get us out the door fast enough…he was ready to play trains with his friend Anna.

Michael, the dock master, gave us a ride to school and we got set up to start doing eye exams. The first 3 student needed glasses and we got rolling from there on. We did eye exams on the 10th, 11th and 12th grades before lunch and found that 9 out of 12 needed glasses. We took a break and went and checked on Max and grabbed some lunch ourselves.

Max was having a great time with Anna, and was happy to see us leave again. We went back and finished the 9th grade and found 6 out of 9 kids needed glasses, with one child being absent today. After school, Tom and I walked back to the boat hand in hand, we felt good about our days work. Max was happy to see us. He had not taken a nap today because he was so excited to play with Anna, but as soon as I picked him up, he fell asleep on my shoulder.

Jack, a basketball player of Coach Dean’s, came to the boat ready to help Tom clean the outside of the bottom of the boat. They go the dinghy down and set to work. Another boat on the dock had caught some fish and conch and was cleaning them on the fish cleaning table and the waste they throw in the water, which brought an 8 foot, 800 pound bull shark looking for an easy dinner, he hung around for quite a while but soon decided that he had had all he was going to get. After they were done Tom took Jack out for a ride in the dinghy and Jack came back beaming. We wished our little friend a good evening and I set out to make some Spaghetti and Meatballs for dinner. Max, the poor kid never woke up again until morning, Anna must have tired him out.

Tuesday – 11/18/08
Max slept until 6:00 am and woke up hungry. Tom got up and made him some oatmeal and a strudel, and Max started immediately asking for Anna. I got up and got ready for the day, we have another busy day of eye exams ahead of us.

We arrived at our make shift exam room, seen above and got started. The ninth grade was next. The seventh grade was the hardest… they had all scored very poorly on their screening so we were expecting them all to need glasses… they all WANTED glasses, but did not need them! SO no matter how hard Tom tried to get them to say that they could read the eye chart, they said no, but yet the prescription on the instrument read no power. Then when you were sent back to class with out trying on frames, they got upset. They REALLY wanted glasses. Funny ;-)

Coach Dean and Tom outside our makeshift Exam room

Tom had done the 8th grade on Friday afternoon (all 3 of them) and since the 4th, 5th and 6th grade were at the Gateway campus, we proceeded with the 3rd grade next. They proved to be a bit harder to do. They had a million questions all ending with “do I need glasses?”, I’m not sure if they wanted them or not, but in the end only three needed glasses and we got them taken care of. The 2nd. grade was next, and it only had 3 students from this campus, and none of them ended up needing glasses.

It was 3:00 pm and school was over for the day, so we headed back to the boat and as usual we ran in to the town cigarette bum, Sam, and as usual he bummed a cig off of Tom, this is a daily ritual and pretty much what Sam does all day, when he is sober anyway. When we returned to the boat, Max was napping but he and Anna had had a good day, going to the beach and to C.J.’s a local lobster/hamburger joint for lunch. Anna went home and Tom and I rested until Max got up and we made dinner and played with Max, until we all headed off to bed.

 

Wednesday – 11/19/08
Wednesday was our last day at the school. The principal, Mr. Rolle was going to get the kids from the Gateway campus and bring them for their eye exam. They came a grade at a time and as we finished a grade we would go and get a first grader from this campus and do them in between. These were the hardest to examine, they wouldn’t stand still nor hold their heads still, so Tom couldn’t see in their eyes what their script should be to start with. It took both of us to examine a kid, with me holding their heads so Tom could do his thing. We still had to dilate two kid’s eyes, they just wouldn’t open their eyes and stand still for the exam.

Lunch break at 12 noon, we had two kids left to do, the two who got dilated so we thought we’d be done early…not the case… we were still there until the end of school at 3:00 pm and Tom stayed and examined Mr. Rolle, the principel and Mrs. & Mr. Pinder, both teachers at the school. I went back to the boat so Anna could go to the flag football practice with Coach Dean, but she chose instead to stay and have a drink. At 5:30 pm we all headed back to the school for the PTA meeting that the School Superintendent had flown in for, and which Mr. Rolle had asked us to attend to explain to the parents what we were doing and why we were there to do it.

Tom speaking at the PTA meeting      

The glasses will be fabricated in Tulsa and shipped back to the school in about two weeks, which the coach and art teachers will dispense. We will miss the joy of dispensing the kids their new glasses but have been greatly rewarded from the whole experience.  The island of Bimini, the teachers of The All Age School, and especially the kids have made this one of life’s good memories.

After Tom’s speech we walked to the other end of the Island and had dinner at “The End of The World” restaurant, it’s floor was sand and the seating was all outside except for one table and bench. Max made a new friend, Albert, it was his 5th birthday. His mom was the bartender, so Max and Albert played while we waited for our dinner. We finished and went back to the boat, gave Max a bath and we were all off to bed.

Thursday – 11/20/08
Thursday we went back to the school to gather our equipment and supplies. We had blankets and towels to keep the room dark as well as Tom’s instruments. Mr. Pinder met us at our make-shift clinic and helped us get everything loaded in the golf cart that we had rented from Capt. Pat, our dock master. It seems everybody on the Island has a side business renting golf carts. We had taken a quick tour of the rest of the Island before going to the school and had found Bahama Bay, a small private community at the end of the Island, which also has the only playground. Max spotted it right off and so we went to the reception to get arm bands so that we could enter the private residential part of Bahama Bay and Max could play on the play ground.

After running around for an hour we returned the golf cart. It was close to lunch time and the school had arranged for us to have lunch “on them” and “Bob’s Café” across the street from the marina, so we unloaded all of our stuff and went and had lunch. I had a lobster sandwich and Tom had a sausage patty sandwich, Max wanted french fries, which he has not had for a couple of weeks now, so he was happy.

When we returned Tom invited a couple, Laura and Jason, who were on a 36 foot sailboat to run with us down to Cat Key and back. They were thrilled to go for an outing, so we loaded up and off we went. On the way we passed an old sunken cement ship, and decided to snorkel it. Max and I stayed behind and took pictures.

They snokeled the ship for about 15 minutes and we were off again, to Cat Key. Cat Key is a private Island where you can stay at the marina, but you are not allowed to go anywhere on the Island. It is owned by the very rich of Miami and it has a huge marina with a very small airstrip by the marina. We had a nice afternoon with Laura and Jason, who is a Marine Biologist and he and Laura, a retired Insurance agent, work together on projects while sailing the waters of Florida and the Bahamas. We returned right as the sun was going down and Michael flagged Tom to come over to the office. Tom returned with a very official looking envelope; it was an invitation to meet the Administrator (aka the Governor, the Big Chief) his official title is: His Worships, Sherrick Ellis, One of Her Majesty’s Justices of The Peace, Administrator of Bimini, tomorrow at 11:00 am in his office. After tying the boat up, we visited for an other hour or so, and our guest returned to their boat for dinner.

Friday – 11/21/08
We got up in the morning and went for a walk, looking at the supply ship unloading it’s cargo, then we returned to the boat and had breakfast and got ready for our appointment with His Worships at 11:00 am. As we were leaving, we told Max that we were going to the school and he said…”Mommy, you and Daddy go to the school, Anna come play trains with me”. Anna was not coming to play trains with Max, which made him sad, but he put on his big boy pants and came along.

Mr. Pinder met us outside the school and we invited him and his wife for dinner as we walked together next door to His Worship’s office. Coach Dean had also received an invitation and Anna came along to say hi to Max. He RUSHED into her arms when he saw her, he was so happy to see her. Tom and I were presented with a very nice framed “Certificate of Appreciation”, “in recognition of valuable contributions to the health and welfare of the children of Bimini through your Eye-Care Clinic at Bimini, Bahamas, November 21st. 2008”. With the official government seal. We also received a beautiful stained glass cross and a beautiful ceramic fish from the local Art Gallery. They also gave us a very nice book on the Bahamas and a CD of The Bahamian Royal Police Band. They served us Kiwi Strawberry juice and we visited for about 30 minutes. It was a nice ceremony and we appreciated it very much. Unfortunately, Tom handed Anna the camera and she took video, so I have no pictures of the ceremony.

Coach Dean gave us a ride back to the boat in the Administrator’s car and Anna came along to hang out for a while. Max was SO thrilled to have Anna there to play with him. I was having trouble getting our pictures off of the memory card (my card reader is malfunctioning), so Anna offered to go to her house and get her laptop to see if it would work on hers. She took Tom’s bicycle and returned with her laptop and it worked great. We moved our pics to our laptop with a flash drive and I made us breakfast for lunch; bacon is something that Anna never gets as Audley (coach Dean) is a Raggitarien, which means he does not eat pork, so she was thrilled to get bacon. It was time for Max’s nap so Anna went home, and we agreed to go out in the big boat tomorrow if the weather allowed.

Mrs. And Mr. Pinder came at 6:00 pm for dinner. The boat down the dock had caught some fresh Wahoo that day and shared some with us. The Pinders are both teachers, Mr. Pinder teaches Art and Mrs. Pinder teaches 2nd grade. We had a nice evening together and learned that the school needs a few items donated desperately, like two televisions with VCR and DVD players for the 1st and 2nd grades and paint, canvas’ and Elmer’s glue sticks for the art department. Max was so tired he went to bed without even turning on his DVD player, he laid down and was out like a light, as did Tom and I.

Saturday – 11/22/08
Saturday was a lazy day. We just hung around at the dock all day, did a load of laundry and played with Max. At 5:00 pm, Laura and Jason invited us over for cocktails and we got a tour of their 38” sailboat. Max liked the stairs and really loved their ship’s bell, which he rang as if it was a train bell. Since Max had not had a nap, he fell a sleep on my lab at dark. A while later we took him back to our boat and put him in bed. Tom and I had a quick dinner and Tom went to the big boat down the dock to watch the OU vs. Texas Tech football game. Meanwhile I read my book.

Sunday – 11/23/08
We had bacon and eggs for breakfast and afterwards Jason came over, all decked out in his dive gear, ready to clean the bottom of the boat. The locals all thought he was crazy for diving by the docks as the sharks like to come around looking for a quick dinner. But as Laura pointed out, they do not like to take on anything larger than them selves, so Jason was safe, and she was right, we didn’t see any sharks that morning. An hour later Jason was done with the boat and after drying off, we went for a walk down the Kings road.

I have learned that the “low road” is called the King’s road and the “High road” is called the Queen’s road. Anyway, Laura wanted to show us a house made out of pieces of tile. It was quite impressive, unfortunately, I didn’t have our camera with me, so I have no pictures to share, but the whole outside of the house was made of cracked tiles, with 3 dolphins over the door. We had started out on the King’s road, and turned up to the Queen’s road and went to the beach, gathering sea shells. Max had a blast and didn’t want to leave, however Max was ready for a nap, and didn’t put up too big a fuss. We; Laura, Jason, Tom & I decided that tomorrow, we would go drop a hook on the South side of Bimini South for the night, and explorer that side of the Island.

Monday – 11/24/08
Laura and I went to the grocery store to grab a few things, like fresh milk for Max and the biggest avocado I had ever seen, for $3.00, it was so big that 4 of us had it for dinner as our fresh veggie, and I still had half left. We finally had internet access again, so we all checked our email and the weather and found that Tuesday was the only safe day during the next week to cross back to Florida. We got our dock accounts settled and we were off for the anchorage, it was 1:00 pm. The water was nice and calm and it only took us 10 minutes to get to our anchorage, Jason and Laura draw more water than we do, so they had to anchor further out from shore at 7 feet, and we zipped around them and anchored in 4 feet of water. We got our dinghy down and went to pick up Laura and Jason and we went exploring. We found the Miami Marine Biology Lab housed on South Bimini and visited with the assistant manager for a while and learned that the lab houses 15 people and that they do shark research; that explained all of the sharks that came everyday to Bimini North at 5:00 pm for their daily snack of fish carcasses. Max soon fell asleep on my chest and we went up another channel and found a lake with a 30” sail boat stranded on high ground. The water in the lake was crystal clear and after exploring for about 15 minutes we turned the dinghy towards the Cuchipanda. We all disembarked and had cocktails. Max had a snack. We had such a nice time with our new friends that we invited them to stay for dinner. We visited until 10:00pm and we hugged and wished each other safe travels.

 


Jason and Laura with Max


 Jason and Laura’s Sail boat
 

Tuesday – 11/25/08
We got up at dawn, pulled the anchor and waved goodbye to Laura and Jason and headed for Florida. Next is Tom’s log of our crossing. – Susan.

A crossing home
Its early Tuesday morning, 30 minutes before sunrise. We anchored out last night in a beautiful spot off South Bimini in about 5 foot of gin clear water. Watched a spectacular sunset, with a big coconut rum and coke in hand. Steak and grilled Wahoo for dinner, a great last night in the Bahamas. Today we are crossing back to Florida.

10:30 am we are in the Gulfstream, 20 miles from Bimini and 36 miles from Ft. Lauderdale. Crossings are always a big adventure, full of apprehension of the seas and the unknown dept of 3000 feet of water under your hull. Today the seas are about two feet, but with big rollers which have plagued Susan with a little seasickness. We seem to be the only boat out here and then my radar paints a target 6 miles behind us and moving up fast. A 50 foot sleek cruiser passes us and quickly disappears in front of us. In 5 minutes it will be out of sight. When I switch the radar to the 12 mile range I can detect 4 more boats but I can’ see them. The sky is blue with big puffy clouds at about 2000 feet. The water is a brilliant dark blue, ever moving. If you have never made a voyage like this where you are the captain in charge, it would be hard to appreciate the thrill of the journey. There is only you to determine the course, direction and the speed at which to travel to make the ride the most comfortable. Granted it would be hard to miss Florida, but the game is to cruise through the cut of FT. Lauderdale on a direct coarse you set 6 hours earlier while still anchored in Bimini. I have been going at 9 mph, kicking it up to 14 for a smoother ride for Susan and Max. At 9 mph we use 4 gallons ph, at 14 mph we burn through 16 gallons ph.

Now there is another big 50 foot sport fishing boat passing about a mile to my port (left). I think I am just starting to see the tallest building on the coast of Florida, but can’t yet be sure that it’s not a mirage. Yes it is a building… that means we are now about 20 miles from the coast. Both crew members are now asleep on the couch and I just came down from the fly bridge. It’s great here, traveling at, 14 mph, the buildings are now getting bigger by the minute, and I have Steppenwolf’s Magic Carpet Ride cranked on the stereo. For a person who likes boating, it doesn’t get any better than this. I am here and doing it, now, it’s great! Wish you were here to enjoy the thrill with me.

Captain Tom


Dr. Tom Vanderpool practices in Jenks, Oklahoma at Jenks Vision Center
Susan is the Coordinator of Mended Little Hearts of Tulsa.