15 Americans, 5 Canadians and 3 local Bahamians died today off the coast of Nassau.  7 children were onboard.

That could have been the headline... on a fateful saturday afternoon in the Bahamas. 

We left the dock at the Atlantis resort somewhere around 8am. 

20 tourists and 3 crew onboard a 38ft speed boat.  

Three huge Mercury engines growled and moaned as we pounded through open ocean.  From Nassau to The Exumas.

The captain told us the section across the open ocean was called "The Wicked Witch".   With good reason, we were about to find out....

Our initial reaction to this trip across the chop was that the crew should have provided life jackets!!!  At least for the kids.  

It was the bumpiest hour long ride I've ever had in a boat.   

And then paradise unfolded in front of us!

The dark water of the open ocean gave way to the insane turquoise water that the magazines write about.  That the travel world marvels at!

The water flattened out and we enjoyed our day. 

First we stopped to feed Iguanas....Feisty little fellas that will bite you if you're not careful!  (Andi would know, she took a little bite on the finger!!  How many people can say they've been bitten by an Iguana!?)

Second stop was a sand bar.  An incredible experience. If you've never stood out in the middle of the ocean with nothing around on a tiny piece of sand.....you need to try this.  

It makes you feel small.  Somewhat insignificant.  And the tides move FAST!  The little bar of sand disappeared in minutes.  Leaving us standing in ankle deep water while we hopped back on the boat. 

Third stop was the moment we'd all been waiting for!  PIGS!  

The famous Bahamian swimming pigs!  My kids ran up and down the beach looking for the babies.  Feeding the huge pieces of bacon (sorry vegans, that's what they are there for!)

Then lunch at Lorraine's!  A beautiful island restaurant run by sweet Lorraine! We were served family style, some of the best fish and ribs.....oh....right.... the pigs....Well they were DELICIOUS!

Next was swimming with the sharks!  Nurse sharks....so harmless.  But no less incredible!  They were gentle and docile and wonderful creatures.  We laughed as they slipped through our legs and sucked pieces of fish out of the water into their tiny mouths....

Our final destination was a private beach.  The beach itself was gorgeous but there seemed to be a darker undertone.  
The captain mentioned as we arrived, that he would be handing out ponchos as we left.  There was rain in the forecast.  

We swam in the blue water for about 20 min.  The sky darkened over the bright red no trespassing signs that lined the beach.  

As we made our way back onto the boat, we were given ponchos.  The captain was on the phone for most of this, having a hurried conversation with someone back in Nassau.

The message that we got from the "cap" was that there was some weather.  And as choppy as it was on the way here, it might be worse on the way back.  He wanted to prepare us for the worst.  But was hoping for the best. 
His worst....a bumpy ride with rain....

Reality was much different. 

The first 30 min was to be expected.  Good chop, several big crashes as the boat hammered down into the waves.  But nothing crazy.....

Until we went through the wall.  

Imagine the game Fortnite.  (Adults please consult your kids)

There is a storm circle that is a defined wall.  If you're on one side, you're not safe.  On the other side of the storm wall, you're fine!!

That's how it felt.  We hit this wall at speed and immediately the temperature dropped!  

Then the wind started howling. 

Looking out ahead you could see lightning crashing in the ocean through the sky.  

The boat began to "fly" off the top of what felt like HUGE waves and crash down with a spine crunching BANG.  

Were were airborne a LOT....the whine of the engines changed every time the props left the water.  

The rain started a little ways into the storm. It was coming at us sideways....soaking every part of us.  You couldn't look up.  

I remember noticing the amount of water that was pooling on our laps. I also remember having a moment of relief. 

Enjoying the fresh water in my mouth from the rain instead of the salt water from the sea. 

It was around this time that one of the older passengers, a woman from New York began throwing up.   

We tried to pass her gravol but it was too late.  She couldn't keep it down.  Towels and plastic bags full of vomit were thrown on the floor of the boat in front of us.  

My daughter was terrified.  She pulled the hood of her dark green rain poncho down over her head.  I didn't notice her whimpers at first.  They became scared cries and we held her tighter.

The young lady in front of us who had been enjoying mojitos all day and was super laid back began to say over and over...."I just want to be home....I just want to be home"...... Almost pleading with mother nature.....

We heard constant pops that sounded like fireworks.  I realized it was literally lightning crashing around us as we flew across the water.....

The "shade" canopy above us began to flap.  It was smacking the top of Andi's head.  It was a heavy canvas and was hurting her.  One of the crew came back to try and tie it back but it wasn't loose at the back near us, nor at the front.
I had to hold my arm up with a fistful of canopy, to stop it from smacking us for the rest of the trip.  

And then....as quickly as it was upon us.....it was over.  

The water flattened, the wind calmed, the sun poked out through the clouds. 

We took stock of our situation.  We made it.  We were wet.  And exhausted.  But we were there....

40 min of some of the most violent boating I had ever done in my life.  So violent, that the boat BROKE.....The plexi-glass window around the captain and the steering wheel spider cracked.  

The entire structure around him had shifted.  This is what caused the canopy to be loose. 

The kids toughed it out.  Our boys knew that we had to just get through it.  My daughter, albeit terrified and crying, made it and was smiling as we walked up the dock.  

The captain offered beers to those walking away to help calm our nerves.  As I reached across to him to grab the beer I asked....."That was f#cked up, right?"

His response was, "I don't usually swear.  But that was the worst sh%t I've ever been through with tourists.  They told us it was a light rainfall.  That was bad.  6 to 10 foot swells, it was bad."

Our cab driver on the way back to our hotel told us is was such a bad storm, most of Nassau was flooded.  We were passing cars on the side of the road that had flooded their engines trying to get through the water.  We came across entire flooded streets.  

As I sat on the 22nd floor balcony of our hotel.  I watched this storm out over the water.  It stayed there for hours into the night.  Creating the most brilliant lightning storm in the clouds I've ever seen.  

It was almost taunting us....waiting for us to return to it's abyss.  

The next morning I woke up to a bit of an epiphany.  Some sort of interesting positive outlook to take away from this.
Life can throw horrible storms at you.  Moments where you think you might not survive.  Then, out of the storm, you hit clear skies, flat water and a fresh look at life.  

A moment where you can appreciate that the hardship you went through made you stronger .... somehow.  Better.  More resilient. 

And you smile.  And give thanks.  

I could have been pissed off at the crew of the "Revenge of Queen Mary".  

But instead I was thankful.  Thankful for their calmness under such intense pressure.  

Thankful that they made the right decisions and had the skill to get us through the storm. 

Which lead to another AHA moment.....sometimes you can't weather that storm alone.  Sometimes you need people around you to help you through that storm.  

And in the end....I wouldn't have changed any of it.  

The iguanas, the pigs, the sharks ... everything that happened that day, was well worth the price that the Wicked Witch asked of us.  

And while we will never see any of those other people again, we all shared a moment together that we will never forget.  

So I leave you with this:

15 Americans, 5 Canadians and three local Bahamian crew survived a harrowing trip across the Wicked Witch.  All parties came out wet, and tired but in good spirits and with an experience they will remember forever. 

We survived!

- Justin