Captain Nine Lives
Early March 2018
Spear fisherman? Aquatic feline? Escape artist? Stuntman? Samaritan? Guardian angel? Shark victim? Lionfish survivor? Generous soul? Helping hand? rescuer? hero? He was all of these and more to us when he suddenly showed up at a time we and our boat needed him.
After thirty minutes of MAY DAY calls, we barely heard a response over the static of the VHF competing with the squall's howling gusts...I thought I heard "SPIRIT" responding. However, when I first caught a glimpse of the boat's name clearly painted on its port side, I realized it was SPEAR.
When our rescue appeared out of nowhere a few miles from Chub Cay, their appearance became perfect timing. Within moments one of two crew tossed us a towline. I felt a wave of relief as soon as the line became taut and began pulling us towards calm. Both of us were so tired and soaked - drenched and bedraggled by the day's efforts. It was then in my exhaustion I renamed their boat SPEAR-IT.
That fateful twilight so shrouded both boats, we could barely make out our two rescuers. At the time we were simply thankful someone had answered our call. We had no other options, either "standing by" on the radio or somewhere on the sea. And as it turned out our rescuer found us and we found out he was the best we could hope for.
Whoever expects to need rescuing? No one goes to sea to seek help. Whoever selects their own rescuer? But if one believes there are no accidents in life, then we all are supposed to cross courses at the moment it happens. While life often twists and turns people's fates, the unexpected and inexplicable always seem to show up. And the unexpected continued. Little did we know at the time how a crew member from SPEAR-IT would continue to help us almost a week later.
Near sunset of that long March day the breeze blew northwest 25-30 knots - this squall altered our course and unknowingly our destiny. With no working engines, no rudders, no steerage, only two reefed sails, waves undulating 3-4 feet our boat was disabled and distressed by any standards. To make matters worse, an imposing, jagged-coral Diamond Cay loomed less than a mile away.
Within sight of a protective anchorage our two rescuers heard our MAY DAY call. Now two miles east of our position, he responded to our radio plea. "We see your sails, we are on our way." Within minutes, SPEAR was a bow of us, readying a tow line. In the early evening dark. a dark figure tossed me a line and then slowly towed us into the outer harbor at Chub Cay in the Bahamas' southern Berry Islands. Once anchored, I felt the burden of the day disappear.
But a night's rest seemly imminent, was not part of the destiny's plan - another few challenging surprises were into store for us. A flooded engine room, more May Day calls and no answers and a second anchor setting before another tow into the marina the next morning - (more about that in an upcoming blog post.)
In the next few days at the Chub Cay Marina, we crossed paths with Dave on the docks. We weren't positive we recognized each other, but after a couple of questions we realized he had rescued us. Gave us another chance to express our gratitude. He said he would stop by Mystique, as our catamaran was tied up near the marina's fish house.
We were curious to know how this young man came to rescue us - his story! We soon learned he was hired as a private fisherman. We found him exuding a fresh, vibrant, experienced 26-year-old-outlook on life. Much of Dave's sea wisdom seemed to derive from two close encounters that almost cost him his life - a shark attack and a lionfish accident. He had lost a finger and almost his life to a lionfish stab while carrying foot scars from a shark attack, yet his jovial spirit belied these dangerous sea encounters. Undaunted and undeterred he added he has learned how to be more careful. His Instagram account and ID and the title of this blog post ably describe how fortunate Dave is about his livelihood spearing fish. Nonetheless, he accepts the risks of the sea and lives his passion. While his scars may suggest he is a vincible human being, he still braves the waves and defies the seas’ odds. He earns a living by accepting the sea's challenges. Like a aquatic cat, he has many lives.
It was we who will be eternally grateful for his rescuing us, but also for sharing his gracious and generous spirit. Leaving us with enough filleted fish and two lobsters for a week of dinners, Dave and TJ left us in much better shape than when we first met. In many ways Dave left his spirit with us - part of himself and his generosity. What an amazing world we all would enjoy if rescuers gave of themselves the way Dave gave to us.
While his unconditional assistance was part of The Good Samaritan code of the sea, it was Dave's unhesitant willingness to give us whatever he could. In the five towing situations we encountered on our way back to the states, Dave, by far, represented the best example of Bahamian assistance. Each country may their own policy for sea rescue, the common responsibility or duty is "rescue those in need!" I have only conversed with him briefly four times, but I can tell he knows himself. He told us he wanted to help tow us because he would want that of others. This golden rule was part of his personality and it was a delight to be one of his recipients. We gained an ever greater respect for him and his assistance after his departure. Negotiating with a United States towboat company for to arrange a tow back to the states contrasted sharply with SPIRIT's help.
Funny how circumstances bring together strangers. How can someone be a unknown stranger one moment and a savior the next. Even more odd that mankind after thousands of years has yet to comprehend fully why we are all here.
Thank you, Captain Nine Lives
Other blogs related to our sailing the Bahamas in 2018:
- Our Bahamian Legs
- Lainie and her Catch
- Cleaning a Mishap
- Challenges? Opportunities? Blessings!
- Exhaling Time
- Assaulted at Gun Point
- Got Ya Back
- Heighten Perspective
- Carl & Carla's Long Perch
My other blog posts about "close calls"