If I’m being honest, I must have resembled an exasperated chihuahua, sprinting back and forth at the edge of the dock. I wasn’t so much "talking" to myself as I was "yipping," as I stared into the water at the school of sharks, drumming up the courage to join them.
Taking a deep breath, I thought to myself: “Okay, I’m gonna do it.”
I leaned forward and … nope. No way. This was insane. I’m a father with two kids at home. I don’t jump into schools of sharks.
Crewmembers from 162-foot (49.3-meter) Christensen Remember When were already in the water, and apparently that was all I really needed to help me swallow my trepidation and take the leap. These were just nurse sharks, after all. This was a marina at Compass Cay in the Exumas, not some pitch-black cave in the middle of nowhere. The crew had been in the water with these sharks countless times. So had quite a few 6- and 8-year-old visitors to this popular winter charter destination.
This next bit of conversation, I hope, happened only inside my head.
I have to do it.
No, I don’t.
Yes, I do.
One, two, three…
No! No! No!
When my body finally hit the clear, warm water, and when my blood pressure dropped to the point that I realized my eyes were open and I could, in fact, still see, the only thing I felt was calm. It was a remarkable sensation, almost like being baptized anew, welcomed into a club of people who experience life’s moments differently. The sharks may as well have been rough-skinned puppies, as curious about me as I was about them. I minded my fingers, as the crew had instructed, but even still, I’m sure that I was playing with those sharks, and that they were playing with me.
I wasn’t looking at nature. I was immersed in it. I was living it in a way that I never knew was even possible.
And this was only a single hour during a charter filled with many more experiences that got me to go well beyond my comfort zone and make memories of a lifetime.
Remember When is a 2011 build that alternates winter and summer charter seasons in the Caribbean and Bahamas/Mediterranean, taking 12 guests in six staterooms at a lowest weekly base rate of $230,000. At that price point, she of course offers all the luxuries that savvy charter clients demand, including indoor and outdoor dining (the latter with misters and overhead air conditioning), black-out blinds in the sky lounge for cinema nights, an oversized hot tub on the sundeck and all the water toys that guests might want.
Some other charter yachts offer those things, too, but not alongside the Remember When crew—who have honed their charter program so professionally that they can get a relative underwater greenhorn like me not only to jump into a school of sharks, but to end up raving about the experience and craving more.
“The team we have on board, we’re like a family,” says Capt. Francisco Chadinha. “Playing well together makes all the difference for the happiness of the client.”
It doesn’t hurt that we were playing amid the 365 vibrant islands and tiny cays of the Exumas. They are quite a contrast from the more touristy parts of the Bahamas, with white-sand beaches, crystalline waters and untouched reefs.
We often had the beaches all to ourselves—except at Big Major Cay, where resident pigs, some quite massive, swam out to greet us in our 42-foot Invincible tender. The Remember When crew were ready with the freshwater hose and a big bag of carrots. There, too, the crewmembers jumped in and mingled with the animals—and there, too, I leaped in. I was in the water, staring down the barrel of a giant pig’s snout, and loving every second of yet another experience I didn’t even know was an option.
Near the pigs’ home is Thunderball Grotto, named for the James Bond movie “Thunderball.” The grotto’s entrance is small, almost hidden—and to get inside, even at ebb tide, you have to hold your breath, dive underwater and swim for it, trusting that you’ll come up able to breathe on the other side.
Here, too, the Remember When crew had a coolness and enthusiasm that was contagious. I held my breath and dove—feeling far more like a powerful pitbull at this point than a prudent chihuahua. When I surfaced inside the grotto, I could indeed breathe, and moreover, the sight was breathtaking. The placid water teemed with a kaleidoscope of brilliantly colored fish, and the cavernous walls echoed overhead like a sonic fortress.
Or maybe that sound I was hearing was just my newfound curiosity drowning out my so-called better judgment, a trait that the Remember When crew continued to bring out of me in countless ways. At breakfast one morning, they asked if I was game to try the chef’s special huevos rancheros. The stubborn me was thinking: nah, maybe just some plain scrambled eggs. But moments later, as I peeled layer after delicate layer of bacon, avocado, jalapeño and savory feta to reveal two perfectly over-easy eggs, I realized just how costly my stubborn nature might have been.
It could have robbed me of tasting some amazing flavors from the galley of Colombia-born chef Daniela Sanchez, who spent the week spoiling the guests and me with everything from zesty, Latin-inspired delicacies to full-on French fare.
In hindsight, I believe one of the reasons the Remember When crew got me to break out of my comfort zone was their focus on safety. Chadinha sets a top standard for safety, one that gave even a worrywart like me some peace of mind.
It took the crew just 36 hours to persuade a habitual over-thinker to let go and live a little. That’s more than a skill. That’s an expertise to be admired.
Just some of the fresh notches I added to my bucket list while on charter with Remember When included leaping off the top deck into open water three stories below, rope swinging from the sundeck davit, racing personal watercraft around labyrinths of sand spits and more. And after the first day, I feared none of it. By mid-charter, whenever the crew asked, “Would you like to have a go?” I didn’t even let them finish their sentences before answering, “You bet!”
For my whole life, leaps of faith have tended to bring out at least a few butterflies in the stomach. But during my time aboard Remember When, the butterflies flew away, replaced instead by sharks and underwater caves and giant pigs and more.
Now, I’m wondering what else might be out there in the world, just waiting for me to experience it. It’s hard to imagine a vacation being any more life changing. Next time, I'll have to bring the kids.
Arrive Staniel Cay. Anchor off Big Major Cay. Enjoy a late-afternoon swim with the pigs. Snorkel in and around Thunderball Grotto. Don’t miss ‘Club Thunderball’ atop the cave for a drink—the view is amazing.
Compass Cay and Warderick Wells. A day you’ll remember forever. The nurse sharks at Compass Cay would love to meet you in the water. Warderick Wells could be the inspiration for Jimmy Buffett’s song ‘One Particular Harbor.’ It’s a paradise, whether hiking the trails or snorkeling the limpid waters.
Hawksbill Cay offers some of the most amazing beaches in the Exumas as well as sandbars, channels and coves. Spend the day at the beach with entertainment provided by the crew. Private lunch on the beach prepared by our chefs.
Shroud Cay. Tour the lush mangroves and creeks of Shroud Cay by kayak or stand-up paddleboard. Hike to the top for breathtaking views.
Norman’s Cay and Little Wax Cay. Snorkel the plane wreck at Norman’s Cay. Experience the quaint island atmosphere.
Allan Cay and Highbourne Cay. Fishing trip on the wall at Highbourne Cay. Play with water toys and enjoy the white, sandy beach. Feed the iguanas at Allan Cay.
Early morning departure for Nassau. Return home refreshed and looking forward to your next Bahamas yacht charter adventure.