Sailing to the Bahamas.

When my good buddy Ryan Franks asked me to join him on a sailing venture to the Bahamas I was initially hard pressed to accept. First off, I had not even been back from India long enough to unpack my bags. Secondly, I’m the kind of person that has to plug their nose to jump into the water.

However, after being persuaded by a few beers and the prospect of travel through the fabled Bermuda Triangle (I’m a sucker for adventure!) I found myself at the bookstore looking for a book on sailing – after all, I had never even been on a sailboat before.
Ryan’s plan sounded simple; shove off from Charleston, SC and sail down to the Bahamas, some 500 nautical miles away. He suggested it should take 4-6 days. Given my 2 ½ week time crunch, that would allot us roughly 1 ½ weeks to frolic in tropical paradise before my flight back to NC.
While making last minute preparations in Charleston a few of the local hardened sailors got wind of my inadequacies as an able seaman. The visuals they quickly managed to implant in my mind were a far cry from the relaxing tropical vacation I had envisioned – vomit spewing from my mouth and nose as a result from the certain sea-sickness I would have to endure, capsized boats followed by weeks in a 4x4 life raft and my most dreaded fear ever; failure.
 Eight hrs after our departure the seas began to intensify. The idea when we left was to hug the coastline eventually moving into the Intracoastal Waterway in Georgia to avoid the impending chaos of a storm brewing to our south. But naturally we decided to head further out to sea, thinking if we made good time we could possibly make it to Jacksonville, FL before the storm hit us. There I was at 2:30am clutching the helm of Ryan’s 29 foot S.2, curled up in my sleeping bag wondering if we made the right call. I knew very little about boat stability and even less about the angle of vanishing stability (the degree a boat can heel and still right itself), but did know sinusoidal waves were way safer than breaking waves. “No worries bro, in the off chance we capsize she’ll flip right back over” Ryan stated, causing me to tighten the leash on my harness. So happens we were in luck, the smooth swells were about 10’-12’ (using a capsize formula I speculate she’d stay upright in breaking 20’ seas) and the wind was only gusting to around 10-15 knots from behind, hardly calm, but great fun! The best part at this point was the “bucket”; no lavatory on this rig, splash a bit of water in the red 3gallon turd catcher and hold on to something – remarkably we had no spills.
20 hrs after leaving FL we were dab smack in the middle of the Gulf Stream trying to figure out how to real in a fish that was probably longer than our boat was wide. After a 30-40 minute struggle we finally managed to rip the hook free: I’m still not sure what we would’ve done had we got that thing on the boat. The coastline was nothing but a fading memory while Ryan and I watched a school of dolphins swim next to the bow darting in and out of the turquoise blue water, I couldn’t help but gasp in awe at the sheer power and beauty these creatures exuded – their freedom appeared unparalleled! 
“Fifteen men on a dead man's chest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum
Drink and the devil had done for the rest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum. 
The mate was fixed by the bosun's pike
The bosun brained with a marlinspike
And cookey's throat was marked belike
It had been gripped by fingers ten;
And there they lay, all good dead me
Like break o'day in a boozing ken.
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.”
This seafaring song was tormenting my mind. When I was just a kid I read Stevenson’s classic – Treasure Island. Now sitting on the bow I looked into the 3000’ deep blue ocean water contemplating that adventure, hoping any would-be pirates would only scoff at our tiny vessel: I couldn’t shake the thought of the burly seamen forcing me off the plank, laughing as I held my nose and paddled around like a dog in the deep blue. 

Checking in with the Bahamian customs was simple enough, waking up to 2 feet of rising water in the cabin the following day was not. Apparently the bilge pump suffered a sort of malady from the turbulent waters; the resulting back pressure sucked water into the boat, with the ferocity of a starving sewer rat devouring a Chetto. Had we been at sea and not at the dock in Treasure Cay, we could possibly have gone down in the history books as yet another unfortunate vessel to disappear in the Bermuda Triangle! Most everything got wet, the list of sea soaked electronics and spoiled food was long – Ryan running around in his skivvies and the Expedition duffle floating in the cabin with its contents free of salty moisture added the only amusing twist to the affair.

The following days were crowded with snorkeling, fishing, trespassing on some private beaches and a few really exciting mast beam rides. Before I new it I was on the tiny dingy at 6:30am destined for the airport in Marsh Harbor. As the tiny Cessna 402c bounced through the air I wondered where my next adventure would take me,absentmindedly listening as the pilot attempted to comfort a passengers concern regarding the missing and obviously stressed bolts holding the engine housing to the wing.

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Mels VW said...

Sounds like it was an adventure. Good one except the bilge issue

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