Leaps of Faith

A char­ter in the Exumas aboard the Chris­tensen Re­mem­ber When is all about em­brac­ing the un­known—and be­ing thrilled in re­turn.

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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


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.

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.

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