Ajar with Pickles
While our tongues may tantalize and tease our taste buds, flavor occasionally can mislead us. Tasting sweets, for example, can lure any of us into unhealthy habits. A sweet tooth has been known to create a cavity. Too much of a good thing isn't too good. A sip of coke can slip a diabetic into a sugar imbalance. A slice of cake may Meanwhile a sour vinegar may curl a lip, chill and shiver flesh, shake a tongue or even foster a frown. And yet wicked has been known to also treat. Ah, trick or treat! Or balancing bitter with blessing.
One day around lunchtime while sailing Mystique in the Bahamas in early 2018, Lainie and I opened a bottle of Wickles' Pickles and added a few to our plate of grilled cheese sandwiches. While I took a few bites, I read the label on the jar. Reading their story of self-promotion I have lived long enough to know combining opposite flavors can actually complement one another. I also knew that sweet and sour may spoil an experience. Sour milk and honeyed granola come to mind. A pickle on the other hand soaked in sugared water and vinegar may somehow taste sweet, while a dill pickle may be bitter. I guess it is all about taste.
Suddenly into my third pickle, I realized a fourth. Like a bright sun beaming from a distant horizon, I began viewing our voyage differently...I saw our sail in "pickle terms". A simple lunch sandwich with a sweet and sour pickle now no longer mere food. instead meaningful metaphors popped into my thoughts - and with it our three-month sail became clearer.
"Grill cheese sailing" emerged. And relating our catamaran to a tasty sandwich accompanied by sweet and sour experiences didn't seem so far-fetched...a stretch yes, but not out of reach of credibility. Lainie and I had felt pickled a few times. Mystique had been sandwiched between a "rock and a hard place". We had also been sandwiched between journey and destination. I had promised "paradise", not provolone. And our voyage had been a jar of pickles; a number of times we had felt ajar in a pickle jar. Finding ourselves in one pickle after another during the first three months of 2018 was indeed an indicator.
It may seem somewhat counterintuitive to experience damage and distress as having beneficial aspects. Yet just consider where blessings and gratitude come from? Don't they appear most often after situational stress and struggle? Take darkness, for example, doesn't it feel frightful when we are children yet without it, light might appear evident, valuable and beautiful. As we grow don't we experience dark and light differently. Don't they make us feel differently with each? Don't all contrasts appear this way. Don't they help us to understand and accept polar opposites as a part of the universe?
I'm not suggesting here that bad is always good, small is large, hot is cool, deep is shallow or reality is fantasy though all these pairs can be in different circumstances. After all, all are relative. All are human-based perceptions.
By the time we arrived (towed to) mainland America, (Miami, Florida) we had tasted the unsavory and undetectable. Both nature and humanity had challenged us. Both had revealed their true colors. Lainie had climbed our mast to retrieve our main halyard, our port engine had flooded with fuel and our newly serviced starboard engine had shut down. But these in comparison became minor challenges weeks later aboard Mystique. We had yet lost our two rudders; we made a MAYDAY distress call and eventually got towed 150 miles before we returned to Florida.
I would be remiss to not add that we experienced both human generosity and greed. Human character and values exhibited themselves during our distress - both good and bad traits. We met not only selfless and generous souls, but also ones ready to take advantage of our problems. As a friend once told me, "Adversity not only builds character, it reveals it." In the end, we worked around both. We were awed by some who were generous beyond measure and others who were scavengers waiting to take advantage. I decided to see the good in people no matter what.
Sailing to the Bahamas has always been a treat, but this time was entirely different. My boat and I were challenged more than ever. Yes, Lainie and I during those three months tasted many sweet moments but the sour moments were just as plentiful (listed below). Most of these I had never experienced before in my near sixty years of sailing That fact alone amazes me. I somehow imagined I had seen just about everything in my seafaring. Boy, was I delusional.
One lesson I learned was a voyage to paradise isn't paradise for many people. Sailing there is one thing; being there is something else. And while the journey and the destination are part of the entire experience, they are often two separate courses (experiences). And not everyone wants to experience the travel as part of the experience.
Life serves up experiences, but it is up to us how they whet our appetite. Each of us determines whether or not we like what we taste. Traveling is an acquired taste; so too is sailing. No matter what the challenge, I choose to cherish all of life adventures whether positive or negative. While I realize some may turn out better than others, I know it’s my perspective that ultimately decides how beneficial an experience is. So I choose to see the light in the dark. Sweat may taste better than sour, but too much sweet or too sour isn’t healthy either. Balance always seems best for two opposites, but sometimes an even balance doesn’t happen as we hope, especially on a sailboat.
In retrospect, our adventure now tastes better with 20/20 hindsight. Does the past need a condiment so it tastes better? Certainly some treats like wine, some cheeses or hams may sit better with age. Of course, if we would have been injured or hurt in some way, the sail would have taken on a completely different tone. Yes, we were both shaken by the experience, but we were emotionally or traumatically jarred or scarred by our challenges. Some friends and family shared they were surprised we were still together after the stress and turmoil of the voyage, but the opposite was true. We had a deep sense of accomplishment; a deep appreciation for sticking together and returning home safely. Except for a few damaged rudders and slep less nights and tired bodies, our sweet and sour moments cost us very little. Anyway, cost is relative, yet to speak for myself the experience was indeed worth it.
Our experiences (challenges and blessings) with Mystique sailing in and out of the Bahamas in 2018:
In chronological order:
- Return to re-rig, restore and cleanup Mystique after Hurricane Irma hit Miami in Sept 2017
- Fix lightning-damaged water-maker, masthead light and navigational lights
- Exterminate the cockroach population on Mystique
- Address and battle the mold and mildew on Mystique
- Repair safety line fowling Mystique's wind generator blades
- Replace credit cards lost then stolen when I dropped my wallet at gas station in Key Biscayne - Police proclaimed it "a non-crime” even though gas station recorded the culprit on video camera. The police termed it an "unethical behavior; not a criminal one".
- Diesel fuel overflows while refueling at Crandon Marina gas dock, flooding port engine room he day before our departure to the Bahamas.
- Remove and recover fuel overflow with Maikel and Gil's assistance - miss weather window.
- Wait an extra week in Florida for next favorable wind and Gulf Stream opportunity
- Sail south to Elliot Key (just north of Key Largo)
- Then next day sail northeast 53 miles across Florida Strait and Gulf Stream to Bimini - takes 13 hours to cross.
- navigate narrow Bimini harbor channel with few lit channel buoys at early evening,
- Run aground in the dark near Alice Town harbor - keel stuck until 11:30 next morning
- Check in with Bimini's Customs and Immigration while Mystique waits at nearby marina dock without any dockage fee
- Anchor east side of South Bimini;
- Move and anchor Mystique next day to west side
- Explore Alice Town, walk Radio Beach and lunch at CJ's.
- Dinghy ashore for some beach-combing, swimming and snorkeling
- Anchor at Gun Cay - midnight surging waves broadside Mystique. First sleepless night.
- anchored on Mackie Shoal (50 miles from the nearest harbor) - 3-hour night rock and roll similar to being assaulted at Gun Cay - 2nd sleepless night
- Forgot to run water-maker before getting to New Providence - needed to purchase water at marina to prime water-maker.
- Lainie's climbs mast to retrieve knotted main halyard after shackle let go.
- Westerly 30-knot winds at West End batter boat
- run out of cooking propane
- take dinghy ashore in rough seas at West End to rent a car and purchase propane
- Anchor chain breaks at West End
- Mystique drifts ashore and ends up grounded on beach
- Shore waves pummel port broadsides as high tide approaches
- Beached Mystique bangs into stone wall with early morning high tide and strong westerly winds and waves. Stayed up all night until tide recedes fending off the stone wall.
- Lose both rudders when they break off around midnight; Watch rudders float by stone wall and stern
- Bahamaian Stuart Divers pull Mystique off West End sand bar after six tries.
- Spend six hours with the help of Maikel and Monica looking for lost Rocna anchor at West End and never found it!
- Motor-steer Mystique with two throttles 10 miles for practice run
- sail 40 miles without rudders
- Bilge pump fails during night; starboard engine room floods
- Smelling smoke from engine
- Henry jumps overboard at night to tie tarp around starboard rudder post to slow flooding engine room.
- Mystique's port engine fails around noon during 40-mile transit to Chub Cay
- Dinghy tow line raps around propeller and stops starboard engine
- Henry jumps overboard to untangle dinghy bowline wrapped around propeller
- Mystique's starboard engine fails near noon during 40-mile crossing to Berry Islands
- a sudden squall hits Mystique with 30-knot wind Chub Cay
- Helpless Mystique drifts towards looming coral rocks at Diamond Cay
- First ever Mystique's mayday call grabs SPEAR's attention.
- SPEAR arrives then tows Mystique 3 miles into anchorage at Chub Cay
- Bilge pump malfunction causes starboard engine room to flood with salt water
- Bucket-bailing starboard engine room through the night at Chub Cay
- Mystique's starboard engine room begins to emit smoke
- At night Henry jumps overboard to plug stern hole and tie tarp over leak
- During 10 days in marina Henry calls TowboatUS to arrange a tow back to Miami.
- Negotiate tow plans despite GOLD MEMBERSHIP with TowboatUS
Sweet and sour pickles don’t seem too appetizing if they are the only taste in one's cupboard or on one's table. Combining hot-spicy with cool-refreshing doesn't sound that tasty-appetizing, but somehow Wickle's Pickles couples these two together in every jar.
We may have felt ourselves ajar many times during our sail, we found ourselves strengthened by these challenges. In many ways the struggles were lessons apparently I had yet to learn. While many of these above tested our resources and resolve, many were also blessings in disguise. All were greater lessons suggesting "One is never too old to learn s new lesson."