The weather around Abaco is more varied and dramatic than I could have possibly imagined. Most mornings begin the same – a brilliant blue sky mirrored by the sea so perfectly that often the horizon line all but vanishes, causing the heavens to continue all the way to your feet as you wade into the water. The sea is usually glassy calm; a light azure in the shallows where the sea floor is sandy, and a deep blue over the Great Bahama Canyon that runs from the Atlantic, before branching off to both the north and south west, and descending to over 4000m in places. The mornings quickly heat up, and temperatures soar to upwards of 30°C by midday. The glare off the water is, without fail, intensely bright when the skies are clear. Without ample protection you burn in minutes – a lesson I have unfortunately learned the hard way.
As the day progresses the sky often starts to fill with clouds, which grow with terrifying speed. You can on occasion watch one spot and clearly see the thick white cloud bloom like a kernel of popcorn opening in slow motion, and then darken as it expands, growing heavy with water. The clouds tend to culminate over land where the air temperature is hottest, before being blown offshore by the light winds. When they invariably burst it is a sight to behold. From a distance is looks as if the bottom of the cloud simply falls away in one great sheet, forming a thick haze across the horizon. Over the shallows, this haze takes on the same azure quality as the water below it, presenting a brilliant blue curtain falling from the dark cumulonimbus clouds above.
It is never long before the lightning starts, and with it comes the most bone-shattering thunder you could imagine. Flying along the water at full speed towards a storm cloud is a surreal experience. The first and most noticeable difference is the change in temperature. What one moment was a warm breeze, all of a sudden becomes a chilling wind accompanied by the smell of wet rainforest. As you get even closer, the occasional raindrop might hit your arm, causing you to look up, only to see the whole sky illuminated for the briefest of seconds by lightning deep within the belly of the clouds ahead. It is at this point that you brace for what is to come, and after many seconds of anticipation, the shock wave hits you. The thunder is impossible to describe. At first, it lingers at a quiet drone, building and building over several seconds before hitting you with a force that is truly awesome. Everything around rumbles and shakes, and you can feel the power of the sound move through you, before it trails off again into a long dragging groan. The event leaves you mouth agape, dumbfounded, before questioning your sanity as you get ever closer. The rain that follows is torrential, and hits you hard enough to make you wince as it drenches you within seconds.
In contrast to this, there are other days where the only clouds in the sky are thin wisps in the sky, on occasion flitted with the colours of the rainbow as the sunlight passes through them. These days are often humid, sticky and in many ways less enjoyable than the stormy days. The glare off the water is blinding, and taking off your sunglasses makes your eyes ache just from the intensity of the light off the water.One thing that is unchanging however, is the sunset. Every single one I have seen so far has been beyond beautiful. They are different every day, but each one is more brilliant than the last. I have seen yellow, orange, red and golden skies, as well as every colour in between.
The weather here is at times terrifying, uncomfortable, and unbearable, but knowing that it is bound to change before too long is always a great comfort. The next day is always a surprise, and has the brilliant quality of keeping you constantly on your toes.