Leaps of Faith
A charter in the Exumas aboard the Christensen Remember When is all about embracing the unknown—and being thrilled in return.
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 speaking as I was yipping, talking as much to myself as anyone else, staring into the water at the school of sharks. I took a deep breath and said, or at least muttered, “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 a school of sharks.
Crewmembers from 162-foot (49.3-meter) Christensen Remember When were already in the water, smiling and gently encouraging me to overcome my fear. 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 think, 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 roughskinned 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 guy like me not only to jump into a
school of sharks, but to end up raving about the experience and wanting 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 joined them. 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 Great Dane
IT TOOK THE CREW JUST 36 HOURS TO PERSUADE A HABITUAL OVERTHINKER TO LET GO AND LIVE LIFE.
at this point than a terrified Chihuahua. When I surfaced inside the grotto, I could indeed breathe, but even still, 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 help me nurture in countless ways. At breakfast one morning, they asked if I was game to try the chef’s special huevos rancheros. The old me was thinking, No, just some plain scrambled eggs. But moments later, as I peeled layer after delicate layer of bacon, avocado, jalapeno and savory feta to reveal two perfectly over-easy eggs, I realized just how costly my stubborn nature might have been. It almost robbed me of tasting all kinds of flavors from the galley of Colombia-born chef Daniela Sanchez, who spent the week introducing me to 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 life. 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 eating octopus. And after the first few days, I feared none of it. Toward the end of the charter, when the crew said, “Would you like to try,” I didn’t even let them finish their sentences before answering, “Yes.”
For my whole life, leaps of faith have always filled my stomach with butterflies. During my time aboard Remember When, the butterflies somehow vanished, replaced by sharks and grottos and pigs and octopus and more.
Now, I’m wondering what else might be out there in the world, waiting for me to experience it next. It’s hard to imagine a vacation being any more life changing. Next time, I have to bring my kids.
This spread, clockwise from above: Taking alfresco to new heights, the crew arranged a beach setup for lunch at Hawksbill Cay; Char-grilled Spanish octopus with chorizo and pepita-lime pesto, prepared by Chef Daniela Sanchez; Remember When alternates wint
Above: From Fly Dive gear to Seabobs, the toy arsenal aboard Remember When is top-shelf. below: Rope swinging from the sundeck davit is as exhilarating as it looks, as demonstrated by Capt. Francisco Chadinha. bottom: All in a day’s work, the crew make a
Award-winning chef Daniela Sanchez rewards fortunate palates with cuisine spanning classic to avant-garde. right: The crystalline waters and untouched reefs of the Exumas are a diver’s delight.
Left: Charter guests often have the beaches all to themselves—except at Big Major Cay, where the massive resident pigs are a formidable but friendly welcoming committee.
bottom Left: Playing with the rough-skinned ‘puppies’ at Compass Cay.