Night fell as we headed east along the southern shore of the Florida Keys, wild lightning flashing to the north, beautiful sunset and nice winds for us. We prepared for the days to follow..
|Larry repaired a shoe using a spare shackle|
OK, on the positive side, given these winds, we could simply shoot toward the Virgin Islands on a single tack rather than fighting headwinds to the NE. In three or four days, rather than two weeks or so, we would ride the wave of wind past Cuba in 15 knot winds. On the negative side, if we continued NE on our planned route through the Bahamas, we would be tacking into winds gusting to 30, going opposite our goal, and dealing with backup anchorages... or no planned anchorages at all... and Larry was leaving it all to us.
First thing the next morning (after fresh-ground coffee, of course) I pointed out the wind forecast and the advantages of changing our route. I mentioned warnings I had heard about anchorages in northerly winds and advised running south to warmth and weaker winds. Bill, based on his experience as navigator on a NY to Bermuda race (I think) insisted that in sailing you stick to the original plan, whatever the conditions, and that the planned anchorages should be fine, even in different winds. He argued that there had to be good reasons that his route was recommended by his sources. I argued that this weather pattern trumped normal conditions and we should seize the opportunity to make fast progress.
Thus began the week from hell. Bill and I argued and our dislike for each other grew far beyond hatred (only Larry appeared calm: after days even I raised my voice and swore like a sailor), courses kept changing depending on who had Larry's ear, the jib managed to wrap around the fore-stay at night, during a rainstorm, while I was trying to sleep... Toward the end, we spent three days under gray skies (Bill leaving his soaking wet cabin in the V-berth where he rattled around like a pea in a maraca for the cockpit where he rattled less),
Finally we reached the Dominican Republic and headed in to the Resort Marina at Puerto Plata.... but reached it at night amid arguments on whether or not to attempt to enter a strange harbor at night with very poor charts (the download back in the states had not worked for this area) and an onshore wind with large waves. Larry compromised by saying we would go “near” the harbor and take a look. I blew up, saying even getting close enough (I pictured 100 to 300 yards..) for a good look was too dangerous and we should heave-to until morning. Once we got to about a mile or two offshore (where even I remained fairly comfortable) Larry took a look and decided to wait for morning, much to my relief.
March 29: We entered the harbor to find a trashy industrial port,
This leg of the trip was well worth it, both for the memories of adventure and for what I learned. So, what HAVE I learned that could possibly make this worthwhile?
>Cynthia found out that I, as the person with the highest official rating on the boat (I have a Coast Guard OUPV (operator of uninspected passenger vessel) license, I am automatically captain, legally responsible for the safety of people and vessel and getting both safely to the planned destination, no matter what the owner says. She says next time I take on such responsibility I should be recognized and paid. Perhaps she is right, although I am delighted with all I've learned.... and Larry has said I could use the boat, so THAT is an additional bonus.
>I've gotten good at cooking in rough conditions!
>Larry's new CSY44 performed like a champ, taking everything easily in stride.
>Backup! I should have had a copy of all the charts! I should have added extra lines to tie off the life raft or should have pushed to bring it below before it washed away. I should have checked the lines to the dinghy before they chafed off..
>Preparation: I should have checked weather before leaving Tampa and again before Key West. I should have insisted on a full discussion & agreement on routes and backup plans and seen the charts (two or three brains often catch what one does not, no matter how good that one).
>Finally, just as in any relationship, things that start as small irritations become huge issues as time passes or as things get tough: Bill said I overthought everything and that I change my plans every time the weather forecast changed &, conversely, I thought his preparations shallow and rigid; he was furious at me for ruining his enjoyable trip and forcing him on this miserable offshore death march and I felt constantly hindered and frequently endangered; he liked land while I thought of it as a dangerous obstruction; he finds the engine preferable in many circumstances where I far prefer sail power; and we have far different sailing styles...but we got along OK once we were in harbor and would have done far better with more advance planning and agreement. And, on land, I get along fine with Bill: we both like dogs, interesting food, people, walking, snorkeling....
Let's raise a glass to learning and to adventure survived unharmed!