Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Agitation on the Atlantic

Dear readers, we made it to the Bahamas. The crossing was like the heavy-duty cotton cycle on a Whirlpool: tossed and turned for 11 1/2 hours. We left at 3 am, past the lighthouse marking the shoals at the south end of Key Biscayne. Southeast into the ocean. It was immediately apparent that NOAA had missed the boat with its favorable forecast of 9-mph winds; they were 15-20 mph, on our nose. For the first couple of hours, we made only 2 knots/hour, fighting against headwinds, Gulf Stream current, and 5-foot waves. The misery meter was so high even Pope suggested turning back.

We persisted only because I swore that, once I got off, I would never set foot on a boat again!

I am covered in bruises. Pope is covered with cuts. Loose objects (of which there should never be any on a boat...) flew across the cabin and smashed. The boat creaked and groaned and, when we ignored its immediate symptoms and kept going, got really sick: vital fluids oozing through all its seams, i.e., salt water streaming down the walls and through the ceiling.

The boat cushions may recover. But the bedding is soaked, pillows and mattress pad ruined. Salt water is an insidious, corrosive killer--eating away at nuts and bolts and sticky and damp forever on fabric. It will be our constant nemesis here.

Fresh water in the Bahamas, by the way, is 50 cents a gallon, prepared from sea water by reverse osmosis. There are no aquifers on the islands. Laundromats charge $10/load. To wash the sticky salt off the boat deck and inside walls could cost $40 or $50.

Anyway, back to the adventure: Five miles out, I yelled those magic words: "Land Ho!  (aka "end of wash cycle")  I noticed the sun had been shining brightly. We followed a trawler into Brown's Marina on North Bimini Island--an easy way to locate the deep water--and docked.

We emerged from the cockpit, still decked out in our crossing duds: raincoat, life vest, and harness for tying yourself to the boat.

Pope raised the Bahamian flag.
We were warmly welcomed by dockmaster Cordera and by neighbors Gayleen and Bruce, who live on their large, comfortable sailboat and know where to find laundromats and cheap rum here in Bimini.

Cleanup will commence immediately. After that, vacation. That is, if I recover from the wash cycle and overcome the instinct to flee to the nearest dryer: the air-conditioned, mosquito-free comfort of a Best Western.

My only comfort in having survived yesterday is the fact that, today, the winds are expected to rise to 30 mph and the waves to 9 feet!

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