SaintJoe H2O

Today is the day! I wake up early and more than ready to head to Florida. We’re meeting in the parking lot behind the East Hills Library and I’m so excited I can’t even contain myself. I eat breakfast and go through my things again to make sure I have everything. With my checklist complete my mother and I head to the lot to meet up with everyone else. Upon our arrival I overhear Miles talking about his hat and I then realize I didn’t pack one; so my mom and I rush home to get one. When we get back to the lot with just minutes to spare, before our caravan departs, I realize I don’t have a definite ride to KCI. So I ask who has extra room, and Kody comes to my rescue. It was super awkward at first seeing as this was only the second time we’ve even spoken to each other. However, the ride went super smoothly. Since it was April Fools Kody and I decided to pull some pranks, but after two failed attempts we gave up. Turns out we aren’t much of pranksters. To our avail however, we arrived at the airport. We checked our bags then headed to starbucks, and while we were drinking and talking I realized for the first time that the people surrounding me we about to become my new family. After saying final goodbyes to the family members that did come we went through security and then boarded our plane. The flight went well I sat next to Kody and Carsen and we passed the time by just talking and getting used to each other. Might as well since we were going to be spending the next week together. Landing in Florida was super exciting, and the weather was absolutely awesome! Well… walking 600 miles and waiting for our shuttle in it wasn’t that great, but it wasn’t a huge deal. The hotel was great not to mention I had three wonderful roommates: Kaitlyn, Karen, and Lizzie. Another highlight of our initial arrival to Ft. Lauderdale was the Ale House. This restaurant was lovely besides a sub par waiter. The group finished the night with a walk to Kmart where we bought last minute supplies. Finally, we headed back to the hotel to rest up for the big day ahead of us.

I woke up partially bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but what teenager is pumped to get up at six in the morning? Karen, Kaitlyn, and I were down in the lobby not much after the boys, Conard, and Nash. We ate the “yummy” continental breakfast that seemed to consist of hardboiled eggs, plain bagels, and water, but not even a crummy breakfast could get me down because I was on my way to the Bahamas! Mrs.Conard’s group, which I was in, was lucky enough to get the later shuttle of 730 compared to Nash’s 7, so we talked while we waited. I was happy, however, that it was a little early because I was just ready to get the show on the road at this point. We gave ourselves plenty of cushion for our flight, but of course when we get through security and to our gate, we are blessed with the glorious information that our flight has been delayed due to our plain breaking down. AWESOME. With our newly gathered information I decide it’d be a good idea to get something to eat. Therefore, using the buddy system, Alyssa and I venture off to a café to get a sandwich. While in line I see Kody, Carsen, and Kaitlyn heading to Chili’s and after Alyssa and I get out food, we join them. We had one of the oddest waitresses ever, but it made for such a good time. When we’re back at the gate and boredom has begun to settle in, I remember I’m traveling with a big group of kids and decide it’s time to play some card games. While playing we managed to make a family move because we were getting too rowdy with spoons, catch phrase, speed, and "drug dealer."They however didn’t slow us down one bit. We played games literally until our plane arrived. From the beginning I knew we were going to be on a little pond hopper of an airplane, but I guess it never occurred to me how small it actually was, until I saw it waiting for us on the apron. As nervous as I was to board the plain I think walking to it was the most fun I’ve ever had. The takeoff was nerve-racking, but the flight and landing almost seemed smoother than that of the commercial plane. The view out the window was also much more exotic. When we landed we had a short walk into the “airport.” It was sunny and hot and I loved every second of it. We loaded our bags into a truck and were lead by Mark to the docks at Fresh Creek. IT. WAS. BEAUTIFUL. I had never seen water so gorgeous in my life! I could not wait to take my first swim. Unfortunately we were unable to swim that night. We did however after: meeting Captain Larry and First Mate Rick, unloading our bags, getting instructed on proper boat safety and usage, and learning about our future chores, get to see and hold a couple or critters Rick had caught earlier and venture to the beach to get a feel of our new surroundings. The little beach areas were beautiful and the old cannons were awesome to see. There was also a lighthouse which my group somehow managed to get me to the top of,a quaint trail leading to another beach, and sand fleas. When we were all finished with the beaches we headed back to the dock for a barbecue and I had my first encounter with conch. It was legitimately delicious, and I was glad I was being introduced to new foods so early in the trip. When we finished eating we were allowed to throw our scraps into the water so that the fish could finish it off. I remember hanging my feet off the dock, listening to Don’t Worry Be Happy, and identifying the all the fish that were eating our food with Kody. It instantly became a memory I’ll never forget. Later that night Rick made a presentation on his past life experiences dealing with the ocean and other various things. I remember being so tired from all the excitement that day that I dozed off, just for a second, with Lizzie in my arms. After the presentation we split into our groups of Déjà Vu and Serena, and headed to bed. I tried to sleep on up top with Kody and Carsen, but that just didn’t work out. I resorted to sleeping on a berth down below.

The next morning I woke up semi early and used the bathroom. I mention this only because it was the last time I was going to see indoor plumbing for a week; it was almost devastating to part. Our boat decided on cereal for breakfast so that we could eat quick and depart even quicker. We found that this was our strategy for the remainder of the trip because Déjà Vu was unfortunately quite slower than Serena. Larry taught us how to work the radio and it was my goal to use it, on my own, at least once during the trip. We began our sail and headed towards the tongue of the ocean and towards our first snorkel destination. High Cay was where we were headed and upon arrival I was overjoyed with excitement. I could not wait to get in the water. After all this is what Mr. Nash had been preparing us for all year. My first snorkel was a little chilly, but overall a good experience. I saw a Trumpet Fish as well as tons of Sergeant Majors and Blueheads. This first snorkel was also where I worked out some of my snorkeling kinks. I seemed to be holding my breath even though I was wearing my snorkel! After a solid morning in the water we headed back to the boat on our top of the line dinghy. Every ride in that thing was a new and amazing experience. After lunch we explored the Cay some more. This snorkel had a little more beauty wrapped up in it. Lots of Elkhorn coral and even a lone stingray decided to grace our presence. A rocky night was predicted for us so as a group we decided to continue on to Middle Bite. Here we got to explore the intricacies of the Red Mangroves. The idea of waiting for high tide so that we could take the dinghy in almost backfired on us as the current was too strong for us to get out. We were threatened with lifting our monstrous dinghy so that we could escape the Mangrove metropolis. Luckily and without much trouble we did make it back to Déjà Vu.

Our boat was up bright and early while the other boat slept in,. I was initially against this idea, but it began to grow on me because I didn’t have to share the ocean with too many other people. We visited another blue hole that was home to a multitude of fish. The most abundant being a mass quantity of terrifyingly large Blue Tang. However, no matter what fish was swimming within vicinity of me, everything about what I was witnessing was majestic and beautiful. On this day we also ventured to a nearby island. To my dismay the beaches were covered with trash, but this didn’t stop us from exploring. On this island we witnessed autonomy at its finest when a black rat snake attacked a small lizard right under our feet. Well, it was literally over mine as my feet were included in the lizard’s escape route. We then explored the rest of the beach. We spent our time scavenging over the tide pools finding different creatures and showing them off to each other as well as collecting different items to bring home. On our way back to the rest of our group, after being separated because we were so adventurous, Mrs. Conard and I were escorted by another lizard. Hopefully that little guy can pay better attention to his tail. When we finally met up with the others Larry and Rick had chunks of coconut cut up for us to eat that they had harvested from the trees on the island. They were really peanutty and I didn’t really enjoy them. We also snorkeled an inland blue hole that called for maybe a 10 minute trek across treacherous dog’s tooth. This blue hole was quite uncomfortable for me to get into, but I managed to work up the courage to jump in anyhow. I remember looking for the Christmas Tree Worms we had talked about before that would be in this area, but after not being able to find any Kody, Carsen, and I gave up and began to do silly water poses and laugh the duration of our time away.

The next day before Serena had even gotten up, we began our sail to Golding Cay. On the way Rick had started doing one of the things he loves the most: fishing. On our sail he managed to catch a Wahoo which while later filleting he found parasites in, a mutton snapper, and a queen triggerfish which was so absolutely and breathtakingly beautiful. We decided to dock at a supposedly abandoned naval base which was creepy honestly creepy to me. The island seemed to be overrun with skimpy sheep that were just barely getting by. We did a day walk of the island and saw where we would be snorkeling sometime in the near future. We also got to spend quality time with the other group for once. A helicopter lands on the island and we soon find out it’s not unoccupied and along with the sheep, we are unwelcome. Later that night, creepy naval base, scary sheep, and all, Nash has the bright idea of exploring the island. I’m all for this of course, but as we begin to get deeper into the island he takes our flashlights. Cue absolute terror. I was so scared that I grabbed the closest arm to me which just happened to be Kaitlyn’s. After a while we begin to man up and finished our walk over the frightening island. When we think we’ve finally made it through our hike, Kaitlyn almost steps on a sheep’s skeleton. We both scream and run to the boat which causes a chain reaction. We’re now all screaming and running, or so it seems, back to the boats. Way later we decide to explore the bioluminescence of the organisms in the water that both Conard and Nash had mentioned to us earlier. The sights we saw were absolutely mind-blowing and just magical.

We have to relocate because a large boat needs to come in to remove leftover things from the island. I liked where we were docked because I could hear the faint sound of sheep in the background; which was weird seeing as that wasn’t a sound I was accustomed to, but nevertheless I was fond of it. However, the move ended up being for the best because at our new location we stumbled upon an adorable seadog that we named Salty. We fed her all the food we could before we had to depart and she went from a Skinny Minnie to a Fatty Patty in no time flat. I didn’t want to depart from her because she reminded me so much of my dog. We had left to relocate before Serena so when they were coming in, Captain Larry decided to take out the dinghy to lead them in. He asked if anyone wanted to go with him and we were all hesitant. In the end, Carsen and I both ended up going. It was one of the best decisions I could have ever made. The dinghy was ridiculously fast so we got to show off and do circles around Serena. We then did a snorkel around Golding Key. It was absolutely awful for me and I’m pretty sure Kody as well. I kept getting stung by little moon jellies and my skin was reacting awful harshly. Kody was having problems with his contacts as well so we decided just to get out of the water and watch as our group finished their snorkel. We then headed back to the boats where we got to play with Salty and explore where we were anchored even more. The locals seemed to be drawn to us and they were pretty funny to listen to.

We went on one of our last big snorkels out in the ocean and it was just beautiful. It took a little while for everyone to find what we were looking for, but in the end it was a success. Then, because of the differences in speed between Serena and Déjà Vu, team Déjà Vu had to leave early to get a head start. We then anchored around eight, cooked dinner and played games. This was one of our last nights together and it was sad to come to the realization that my newly founded family would soon part ways.

The next morning when we had gotten up bright and early to restart our trip back to fresh creek. Our “head start” wasn’t much of one at all. It soon came to our knowledge that Serena was right behind us. The race was on now. Not only were we still trying to get back to Fresh Creek first, but we were also trying to catch some fish. We went out to the buoy, but our lines came up empty. This resulted in the first time all week that Serena had fish and Déjà Vu did not. As much as I didn’t really like all the fishing, it was disappointing not to have anything to brag about. We may have been good on time if we didn’t all take turns (including Lizzie) steering the boat which was completely nerve racking. When we reached the dock we tried to connect with Serena, but soon found out that instead of waiting for us as they had promised, they went ahead to Androsia. With this information team Déjà Vu decided we’d clean up our boat before we were free to spend. We split up our chores and got everything finished in no time. With a sense of accomplishment we were now free to head to the shop at Androsia. In the store I decided I wanted a dress. Carsen and Mrs.Conard Helped me try to find one, but we had no success. I settled with a couple of little bags, a bandana, a picture frame, a candle, and a green teddy bear that we named Andy. We all got a Bohemian dollar or two then ventured on over to the factory. I thought I was crazy how the biggest factory on the island was only two rooms. The process to make the Batik fabric was so simple yet difficult at the same time. It seemed to be something that took a while to get good at. After not eating all day, my boat had began to get hungry. Fortunately to pass the time until dinner we were able to take a final snorkel at the beach and then head to the hotel to take showers and get all dolled up for dinner. Then we walked to Hank’s. The food was honestly amazing (at least mine was). On our way back to the docks we stopped to get ice cream. I had noticed a little girl in a car outside the ice cream shop and I asked her mother if it was alright if I talked to her; she said yes. The little girl’s name was DeeDee and she was completely and totally precious. I asked if I could get her ice cream and her mother again agreed. While I was purchasing our little treat someone told me she also had a little brother in the car so of course I bought one more cone. The walk back to the boats was bittersweet. I didn’t want to acknowledge the fact that we’d be leaving in the morning, but it was all I could think about.

We woke up bright, bright, and early the next morning as to make it to our flight with plenty of time. I didn’t want to have to say my final goodbyes to the beautiful Fresh Creek. We sat in the faintly familiar airport for what seemed like forever. Also on the way back through the airport, customs, and security I seemed to just have no luck. I set off alarms, was on my phone at the wrong times, and just looked pretty sketchy I bet. Finally however, I made it home in one piece and I have many friends and memories that I brought back as well.

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