Ok, OK, we're not water babies or even water old farts. The truth is that when snorkeling or diving are in the offing I would prefer to sit, dry and warm, on the deck, rum in hand, and listen to all the wonderful stories as the mermen and mermaids re-surface. Why would I want to swim where this beast is prowling?
Each to his own I suppose. Understood that the Bahamas offers one of the most beautiful underwater environments anywhere on earth, but it offers much more in addition.
I doubt that anywhere is the sailing more nearly perfect than here. Temperatures are consistently in the 70's, there is always wind, usually from the east, which gives hundreds of miles of fast, flat water sailing in the lee of the long skinny islands. You do have to get used to barreling along at over five knots in water less than eight feet deep for mile after mile, but the crystal clarity means, in good sun every detail of the bottom is visible. Even the persistent cold fronts are useful, since the wind clocks 360 degrees in such a predictable manner that with good timing a fair wind can be found for any destination. No bashing to windward here! With over 700 islands, about 30 inhabited, there are countless secure and comfortable anchorages giving access to pristine beaches, mangrove creeks, periwinkle gathering (good with beer) on the rock shore, cliff hikes and small intriguing settlements.
Should you tire of flat water, exit through the cut or around an island headland and the coral drops away precipitously underneath indigo Atlantic rollers.
Sailing is only a part of the cruising experience and in the settlements, especially of the Out-islands, the history of this far flung archipelago provides plenty of interest for the curious. Whalers, pirates and wreckers followed after the Spanish, who had made short work of the local Arawak Indians, but the largest influx was of Loyalists who fled the Carolinas after the Revolutionary war, with the goal of recreating a plantation society, under the English Crown, unencumbered by the vulgar specter of Democracy. A cursory look or feel of the gritty limestone soil makes you wonder what they were thinking and provides a 200 year old example to match those of some contemporary genius's ,of arrogance born of privilege. In less than a lifetime most of these plantations failed and the settlers returned either to the U.S. or England, or if they remained they settled for a simpler life earned from the sea rather than the land. The present population consists of descendants of these loyalists and their subsequently freed slaves, who soon outnumbered them and bearing the surname of their former masters, migrated throughout the out-islands. Thus in Big Nochs bar in Rolleville, Great Exuma, affable and very big Enoch Rolle told us that every single inhabitant of his town has the last name of Rolle, an English land-owner who never once visited these islands.
The one big negative in this paradise is the summer threat of hurricane. It overshadows everything. All economic activity, all housing, all life is at its mercy, so much so that locals always reference time and dates by the hurricanes; "just after Andrew" or "before Floyd". The islands seem generally so idyllic, so gentle, washed in the extraordinary hues of sky and sea, that the contrast with hurricane borne destruction is grating. But it is as natural as the tide and so must be dealt with. It makes for modest dreams and flexible plans.
Above or below the water the Bahamas are beguiling and will lure us back long after we and Mandy have moved north.