After saying goodbye to a family of new found friends, I had hoped to depart the Bahamian capital without much fanfare. Who was I kidding? Somehow imagining a life's menu exists somewhere in the Universe with only delectable and delicious choices! Certainly I know life would not be the same if it only dished out eureka entrees. So a few days ago I wasn't really blindsided when another challenge was placed on my proverbial plate. Just another symbolic serving.....slice.... or spice...how about another "helping"!
Maybe I somehow felt due because during the last four months I had had my share of nerve-challenging, gut-wrenching, collision-avoiding and eye-opening experiences. So I somehow imagined it was about time for a smooth and stressless challenge. How delusional can I get?
At around 1:00 pm when I tentatively backed Mystique out of its Bay Street Marina slip, Nassau's tidal flow had not yet slacked; it was still flooding the harbor - flowing hard east to west. Nature sends memos, but we humans have to know how to read its power. I recognized the challenges ahead ( I mean behind because we were backing out of my slip!). I alerted and informed the marina dock hand who volunteered to step onboard to the potential issues that we might face ahead and behind.
So when the wind and water caught Mystique's broadsides coming out of its downwind slip, both currents t-boned her into the nearby 40' catamaran's two bows. Immediately recognizing impending danger, her French crew of 4-6 scurried to the bow trampoline to fend off, but the double currents were simply too powerful for them. Twice I tried to move Mystique away from a collision, but twice without success. I realized I was stuck; I needed some immediate expertise to ease Mystique past my neighboring vessel.
After my second attempt, the French boat's skipper suddenly offered to jump aboard Mystique to assist. He scurried off his, leapt onto mine and quickly, almost magically, sat in the captain's seat next to me. He immediately grabbed, then split the two throttles in opposite directions to their maximum velocities. Not once but numerous times, in rapid succession while I steered. Slowly we inched Mystique away from any further danger. As both engines growled, I watched his skilled handiwork while we slowly backed away from any more contact.
His quick reflexes, astute assessment of "our" situation, and talented dual-engine hand dance finally "saved the day". He somehow knew how to steer a catamaran sideways against strong broadside forces. I had never performed or witnessed such deft and deliberate dual throttle control so until then I could not have maneuvered Mystique without his expertise. His stepping onto my deck and into the fray, taking charge of the situation simply amazed me.
As we exited the narrow passage between docks, I remember peering back to see if there was any damage to his vessel's bows, but I could see none. While I witnessed his adept crafts-man-ship, a gathering of dockside gawkers had also audienced his rescue. I told him if there was any damage to let me know.
We two had never met before this encounter; we were total strangers until this situation developed. As we sat side by side coordinating the controls and the rescue, I could not help thinking I have met another guardian angel. This happenstance skipper could not have been more awake and aware. Hearing his call to help, he responded timely in kind. My gratitude could not have felt greater.
Out of gratitude I needlessly introduced myself, but names by this time were quite unnecessary Our circumstances had already introduced us. And we had already connected profoundly as only two fellow sailors might comprehend. We had connected. In that single moment both of us became blood brothers. While I have seen and experienced this sea phenomenon before, it always feels quite remarkable to realize and witness it firsthand. How fellow sailors selflessly assist one another in time of need is truly remarkable.
While I then moved Mystique close to the gas dock to drop him and the dock hand off, I thanked him as profoundly as i could in last minute we two shared. As they jumped off, I waved another thanks and then turned Mystique away from the fray and breathed a sigh of relief that no damage was done. Again another sea situation had tested me and once again an unexpected someone close lent a helping hand.
As I motored to the harbor's relatively placid area on the other side of the cruise ships, I headed Mystique into the wind and tide to raise her reefed mainsail. A few minutes later, I steered northwestward of New Providence' Nassau across a frothy, swelling and rolling 5-6 foot sea propelled by a blustery northeasterly 20-25-knot wind.
By the next day's dawn, Mystique and I felt the Florida Straits' commingling with the Gulf Stream's pulsations. They stirred a churning, storming caldron stew. While the winedark sea presented some familiar challenges - nothing I had not sailed before - it kept me awake and alert with its rock and roll downwind course.
Actually all felt relatively familiar until I reached Florida's calm waters. As I motored Mystique the last few miles into Biscayne Bay toward Marine Stadium, some unexpected waves of emotion poured over me. After 30 hours and 200 miles I had sailed my 40' Leopard catamaran solo without much rest, I knew I was sailing mostly on adrenaline. So I was understandably exhausted and ready for the "horizontal". This feeling took me by surprise as I thought I was looking forward to a sound sleep...not some more reminders!
With the Rickenbacker Bridge staring at me two miles in the distance, I felt the tidal current of my four-month sojourn to the Bahamas. It was a sudden sadness. And as I let it flow through me for the next few miles, I realized where it was coming from. The bridge ahead helped me recognize it was all about feeling connections. I had made many during my voyage, not just with the sea and nature, but with the people onboard and ashore...some brief, some timely, some helpful, some needing help, some needy, some fun, some fascinating and fun.
Moving slowly against an ebbing Floridian east coast tide gave me time and room to reflect on my recent experiences aka challenges aka lessons. I did not miss the Miami bridge connection to Key Biscayne symbolism as we approached, I activated my phone and wrote some text messages then called some friends. I was reaching out for human contact. After so much alone time in a foreign country, I needed to touch other souls. In some ways I had to let them know I was no longer steering sideways to their lives.
As I passed under the bridge a loud rocket speed boat (cigar boat) with 25 people packed like sardines incan passed by me. I looked away, as the revving, ear-piercing rocket engine challenged my sensibilities. I could feel the disconnect energy
As I entered Marine Stadium anchorage field four months after leaving it in January, I noticed more anchored vessels than ever before. I remember looking for Miquel's boat and dinghy, but in the multitude of unfamiliar vessels, I could not locate him or it. In my sleepy state, I finally found a place to anchor and set her down, let out more than enough scope in an ideal spot.
Then a few moments later I checked my phone, an answer awaited me from my texted question about the family's return flight which helped me wipe away my tears. It had apparently arrived as I had passed the Rusty Pelican restaurant - a one-word text message - "Perfect" and it all was!