Most of us born with five toes at the end of each of our two legs use them to learn to crawl, stand, walk, swim, move or even sail forward. Though in our early years, we often wobble, hobble, stagger or stumble, we cruise floors and furniture through our efforts to find our balance and equilibrium. Eventually most of us discover how to walk on our own. Somehow our more or less five toes remain connected, stay afoot while helping us gain our footing. Five-toed individuals need more than a mere foot of five to move ahead. During our sail to and fro the Bahamas in 2018, we needed our four legs and our six tows. Without them, we would have been unable to return to sail Mystique again.
One might notice toes are but physical appendages. They are not attached by some emotional or psychological tied line; they connect to us physically. So then how do toes help us become better? Do five toes even help us at all? Would more or fewer toes actually help? Could another toe help or hurt? Could an answer be another mystery? even a riddle? The answer was pretty clear to us on our unusal return to the States. We recognized without all four legs and their six tows, the only state we would have returned to was one of continued confusion. Ah, the state of our country - the toe / tow metaphor could not escape my notice.
As children we gradually stand, grow stronger, more upright in rode to withstand a vertical posture. As youth becomes more acquainted with and accustomed to gravity, they mistakenly believe they become more grounded. Though "grounded" may mean holding on to what seems firm and stable, but "running aground" in sailing terms means the opposite. Grounded is getting stuck until either the tide changes or one's vessel catches a tow. But catching a tow or stubbing one's foot digit an hurt. While on the other hand or foot, six tows may be the only way to
And then how do five toes, an odd number on one foot, help us walk? How does ten, an even number, on two legs give us any more stability than say six on four legs? Could it be humanity lost a sixth at a time when civilization and societies were more stable? Could that be a reason why humanity has lost its bearings? Odd questions without any absolute explanations? Not so sure!
Each step mankind takes as been based on what he or she was born with; not on what didn't exist. Many of us grew up to believe each piggy (toe) went somewhere in our childhood, we never grew up questioning their number, need or destination. Five has always seemed adequate for most to stand on and walk. Eventually, no matter how our lower limbs show up and developed, we adapted and learned how to move forward more confidently, if not more intelligently.
Sailing progress is like that as well, especially ahead to windward or foreword towards a windward destination. Odd how moving upwind in sailing can be a zigzag effort often referred to in nautical terms as "pointing" and "footing". But towing is always pulling a craft in a straight line. While the weather and sea conditions may affect a tow - its direction and speed, a tow is not a riddle. It is actually pretty straight forward - pulling a craft to a destination. One tow or six tows- each is important to moving closer to a destination.
Most five-toed and two-legged beings have yet to step afoot onboard a sailing catamaran. And as this is a rare experience for the general population, it becomes unique. I, for one, in six decades of sailing have never experienced six tows on four legs. And as such, as if it actually mattered, it is entirely possible no vessel in hundreds of years of maritime history has ever needed much less carried two bedraggled and beleaguered souls with four soles, four legs and six tows home. I imagine few, if any, have requested four legs and six tows to return over 150 miles through international waters to reach our safe port.
Our four legs and six tows spanned almost the whole month of March 2018. Except for two days when I used both our two engine throttles and her two sails, Mystique was stuck in the Bahamas. Steering without rudders was indeed challenging, but without our tows, we were going nowhere. I gave Lainie the options of flying home, but she refused to leave my two-legged, five toes behind. My 40' catamaran may have been injured and handicapped, it was still seaworthy and we were still healthy and eager to complete our voyage. Of damage did not depress or define us; if anything it inspired us to be more vigilant and strengthened our resolve to be a team.
While I'm still clueless about how five human toes contribute to one's walking ability or why a foot needs five, On the other foot, we needed each of our six tows to return to Florida from the Bahamas. Each was imperative for Mystique and us to make it back to the states.
Toes must have a reason for being. Doesn't everything? If not, why not one? Seems likely only one toe would suffice. Of course, one-toed would be the same as a foot. While the reason for five toes at the end of each of my legs may escape me, but the reasons for our six tows does not. We needed each to return Mystique to be safe and to get repairs.
Our six tows:
- West Cay, New Providence beach to anchorage: 1/2 mile
When STUART DIVERS came to our rescue at high tide in West End, New Providence, Mystique lay lodged upon a hard sandy beach and perched a few feet from the shore's stone wall. The weather had calmed significantly: the winds had shifted more northerly so the conditions were almost perfect for a rescue. The Divers' vessel used two 60 hp outboards and six successive full-throttle pulls to drag our 40' catamaran off the sand bar. Once off, rudderless Mystique was towed to a new anchor position about 100 yards west and north of where her bridle and anchor chain link broke free. Then without locating her original 55-pound Rocna anchor, Mystique licked her wounds for two days until we prepared her for her next leg - a rudderless 35-mile trek over open sea to another cove.
- SPEAR's Northwest passage to Chub Cay anchorage: 35 miles
A full day's sail and motoring northwest, steering with only two throttles until a squall altered the wind direction and velocity. About a mile from our destination near dusk, we were forced to make a MAY DAY distress call south of Chub Cay. By nightfall a 23' fishing vessel named SPEAR rescued disabled Mystique and then towed her into Chub Cay anchorage.
- Chub Cay anchorage inside to their marina: 1 mile
When we discovered our starboard engine room flooding around midnight, we spent a harrowing night plugging a hole in the stern engine compartment. After I dove overboard with tarp and line to cover the hole as best we could, we then spent the next four hours bailing furiously until sunrise when our second distress call was finally answered. Help arrived around 9:00 am when a 15' workboat with three crew emerged from nearby Chub Cay Marina entrance to tow Mystique into a dock.
- Chub Cay Marina dock to Richard L Becker: 1 mile
Ten days after our distress call, rescue and nightfall tow into Chub Cay, Captains Ben and Thomas arrived from Fort Lauderdale via the Richard L Becker to tow Mystique back to Florida - 130 miles away. Their appearance at noon on Saturday March 24th meant we finally could breath a sigh of relief. When they found us tied to the dock near the fish house, we felt safe and my boat was seaworthy. A week and a half earlier, we were not. In the interim we had repaired our engines but still had no rudders. That was something we had to had done in the States.
- Chub Cay Marina to Ft Lauderdale: 130 miles
As TowboatUS' Capt. Ben surveyed Mystique, I gave him a summary of our ordeal a week and a half earlier. By this time he asked “what happened?”, the details seemed almost superfluous. Mystique had taken a number of hits against the 30 knot westerly winds in West End, pounding surf and hard-sandy beach and nearby shore stone wall some 35 miles away. We had been towed into the marina with a major leak in the aft swim steps. It was now fixed. Soon after we had been brought into the docks, we stacked about 30 thirty-pound sand bags on Mystique’s port side to tilt my catamaran's starboard side high enough so the stern quarter was raised out of the water. We had hired a marina repairman to fix the hole in our flooded starboard stern engine room, but we were still rudderless and one engine was still not unction properly.
- Ft Lauderdale to Miami - 20 miles
TowboatUS Once we were transferred from one towboat to another, I called them on our VHF radio and spoke with Capt Jeff and Capt Sean. I praised them not only for their proficiency but their professionalism. They were throrough and responsive to what Mystique needed for a safe return. They had dove on our hulls to inspect their seaworthiness; they had tied us with a bridled and shackled 250 foot tow line; they kept the 22-hour 130-mile tow to a comfortable 5-6 knot speed. They transferred us and left us with another coastal craft under Capts. Sean and Noah took us another 20 miles to chaotic Miami and into the tranquility of Marine Stadium.