I wanted to shake up my life and go sailing (or learn on the job, so-to-speak) so headed to Florida to crew on a catamaran. This is about how it went or, rather, didn't - and my life since. Hopefully it will lead to a catamaran on the clear aqua blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, watching the sunset, a coconut rum and coke in hand. You must START AT THE BEGINNING of the blog, April 2009, to get the whole story...

Saturday, April 30, 2011


Nancy and Walker pick me up in their little white pick-up truck and we drive a few yards down the road and into a small bay where we pick up Daniel (pronounced Danielle - he's French Canadian) and his friend Meg, a cute girl from Australia who looks a lot like my niece. Daniel has a catamaran on the beach there, it's up out of the water because he rode it onto the reef at midnight a couple of months ago - he got disoriented and missed the small passage - and has been spending the time since repairing the several holes that the rocks put into his hulls. He's all patched up and repainted now and we stand about for a bit talking about getting it back in the water later today, and just how that will be accomplished. He has some round posts jammed under the hulls along with a couple of small pieces of plywood and has placed an anchor about 70 feet off shore. He figures that if he winches in the anchor rode while a few people bounce on the bows, it will roll off the logs, down the boards and into the sea. I tell Nancy, on the quiet, that I think as soon as it hits sand, it will get stuck. Unless the tide comes in a good 4 feet, I don't see this working. And the tides aren't big here, I think it's like one foot, so.... we will see. The plan is to try to get her in the water at about 4:30 this afternoon.

We load their kiteboarding equipment, and them, into the back of the truck and take off down some very bumpy, narrow, winding sand roads. So much of this island is just wild land - most of it really, covered in low growing shrubbery - not a tree in sight for miles. Palm trees are not indigenous to this island, and any that are here were planted for shade by the land owner. Consequently, there is no shade to be had at many of the beaches. That is the case with the beach we go to, Windlass Bight.

Nancy and I settle down on the beach at a spot where the water is relatively clear of seagrass and coral - it almost looks like a large circular swimming pool. I go in for a bit of a snorkel but it is very shallow and, because there isn't much in the way of rock or coral, not a lot of fish to see. Actually, there is a huge school of tiny chum, but I only see half a dozen or so colorful fish and one pure white angelfish. The bottom here is very soft sand, and when I try to stand in it I sink far down and don't like that so I really don't spend much time in there at all. Also, the water is surprisingly cold for the Caribbean - much colder than I remember it being when we were here two years ago in February. But it isn't unpleasantly so and, as is usual, feels a lot warmer once I am in it for a few minutes.

The wind is very gusty and so Walker can not get going on his kiteboard - he is just learning how. Daniel and Meg are doing great and get way out to the breaking waters at the reef, but even they are having a bit of trouble - Daniel more that he just can't do any of his jumps.
Windlass Bight

Nancy testing the waters at Windlass Bight

All shrub, no shade.

Setting up the kites.

Walker, walking out his lines to untangle them.

Daniel about to hand off the kite to Walker.

Can you see Meg way out there?

Trying out my watertight camera case.

On the drive back from the beach, Walker takes us to the salt pond where a large flock of pink flamingos live. They haven't been there for a few days, apparently. Thoughts are that they've gone down the island to nest. But when we pull up, there they are - way off in the distance. And as a cloud moves past the sun and the sunshine falls on them, they light up almost neon pink. I'd love a closer look at them but there's no way to get any closer.

I notice an interesting rock formation on the sand that looks like lava. It has perfectly smooth round indentations all over it from where rocks once were, I think. I ask Walker if it's lava and he thinks it's limestone. I notice a large indentation farther away that has the shape of a coral head. We go over and look and, sure enough, that is what it is. Walker says that this all used to be under the sea. There are two tectonic plates right under Anegada and just as we are talking about whether this could actually be lava rock, I feel a small tremble under my feet. I look up at Walker, startled. "Did you feel that?" I ask. "Feel what?" he says. "That tremble, just a small up and down right then." He didn't feel it but thats when he tells me about the tectonic plates. He says there are tiny earthquakes here every day. Wow.

When we get back to the cat on the beach, more talk goes on about getting it back in the water. Walker and Daniel scrabble about under the boat for a bit and then decide to try right then and there to get her in the water. The tide has risen a little. As they work on the logs under the boat, a fellow from a nearby beach restaurant that is undergoing renovations comes over. He is Dominican and speaks only Spanish but with the little Spanish that Daniel knows and a lot of hand waving and gesturing, they work out that the construction worker has some larger pieces of board and he goes off and returns with one. He gets under the port hull and starts clearing out some sand to make a better slope and jams the board he brought under the round post that the hull is resting on. He then goes back and brings more board for the starboard hull. Meg is on the boat and Daniel tells her to start winching in the anchor rode. Problem is, the rode is attached to another piece of rope forming a Y and that is attached to two winches... and there's only one winch handle - the other is jammed tight on a different winch and they can't get it loose. The anchor needs to be winched in at the same rate on both winches for it to work. Meg tries a few rounds on one side and then switches the handle to the other and goes a few rounds on that. I can see that the anchor is not holding; it is moving towards the boat instead of the boat moving towards it. A lot more digging of sand, moving the anchor, talking, arm waving, and so-on ensues. We try pushing the boat from the front as the anchor is winched in again and I comment that it's like pushing on a 20 storey building. This thing isn't going anywhere. I am getting overheated... the sun is beating down on us. I try moving onto the property beside where we are to get into the shade of a palm tree for a bit. I go back and forth for the next hour or so between the palm tree and the boat. There's not a lot for Nancy and me to do and I suggest to her that we go to the beach bar just down the way about 200 yards. She doesn't want to leave, she wants to watch what's going on. I can't take the heat anymore so I say I am going to walk back to my room, about half a mile down the beach. She offers to drive me but I want to walk and set off. Man is it hot. I have to keep pausing in the shade of palm trees along the way but eventually make it to my lovely cool room. I get a bottle of water out of the little fridge and gulp it down. I had taken a bottle of water with me in the morning to the beach but it wasn't enough and it heated up hot enough to make tea with it.

As I am still trying to cool off with a cold facecloth pressed to my face, Nancy appears at the door. She and Walker are done for now with the boat, it hasn't moved and they need to wait until more tide comes in later today. So I get in the truck and we head to Cow Wreck Beach and their place. I am excited to go today because I haven't been to the beach bar that I have seen so much of on Walker's web cam and photos, and I want to have a 'cheeseburger in paradise' for lunch. But when we walk over there, there's no one about and when they do appear, they are there to close up and go home for lack of business. How disappointing! But Walker, who is like family to Belle, who owns the place (it's her property they built their beach cottage on), makes me their specialty drink called A Cow Killer - rum and passionfruit - and it's SO good! We sit there on bar stools and look out at the view, and Walker tells me how much he loves this place. I tell him it is his spiritual home and he agrees.

Walker enjoying his beloved view.

Nancy joins us after a bit and is surprised to see that the bar and restaurant is closed. So we head back to the cabin and she makes us a lunch of tuna sandwiches, which I practically inhale. I had no idea how hungry I really was until I started to eat. It's the best tuna sandwich I have ever had, and I have had lots as it's my favourite sandwich. After I help clean up from lunch, we head out to sit under the palapa that Walker built, in Adirondack chairs he made from scratch. He is so clever. I take my Kindle with me but never open it as we just talk the whole time. I want to stay there for the rest of the day, I am so contended, but all too soon it's time to go back to the catamaran and get the thing in the water. I am still convinced that it will get stuck in the sand. Just as we are about to go, Walker checks his phone and there are two messages from Daniel. The boat is in the water! We are elated. And I guess I was wrong. We drive over.

I wasn't wrong. I was dead right. The boat IS in the water, half way. The rest is stuck hard on the sand. Exactly the scenario I had envisioned. I look over at Nancy and she gives me the 'you were right' nod. Walker makes some crack about next time Daniel wants to call and say it's in the water, he might want to specify just how much of the boat is in and how much is out. We all laugh at that. Then we get down to getting all of it in the water. There's digging and rocking and pushing and swimming and all sorts going on. There are directions being shouted to Daniel from several guys that have joined in from the nearby hotel, all who seemingly have had sailing experience, and who all figure out they know exactly what needs to be done to move it. One guy wants the jib, which is half unfurled and half filled with wind, moved over to starboard to catch more wind and help move the boat backwards into the sea; so Daniel moves the jib. Someone else wants the anchor lines moved, and tighter; so Daniel adjusts the lines. He runs back and forth like a chicken with no head, scrambling to obey all orders that are been shouted to him from all sides. One guy, who is leaning on the starboard hull with his hands, ready to push, looks at me as I walk over and grin at him. "Too many captains," is his dry comment. We all get to the front of the boat and, at the same time as someone else is at the stern doing who knows what, Daniel yells "One, two, three... PUSH" and we push with all of our might and the boat actually moves a tiny bit. We try again. Nothing. Someone gets the bright idea of hooking the boat by rope at the bow to Walkers truck and swinging the bow sideways. Nancy isn't too thrilled with that idea as she's worried it will burn out the motor or pull something off of the truck, but Walker thinks that it is a great idea and so the boat is tied up to the tow bar of the truck. As Walker puts the truck in drive and slowly tightens up the line, we all push and the boat moves, quite a lot. But it doesn't get it in the water and it's still stuck. We try a bit more but the truck has pulled it as far as it can without driving into the sea.

We figure that if we just had about 5 more really big guys, we could push it into the water. So Daniel sends Meg over to work her feminine charms on some guys at the beach bar that had dinghy'd in from a couple of nice charter cats out in the water half an hour or so ago. It results in just one guy joining us. The rest look like they are coming to help but then they turn and walk out onto the dock where their dinghy is and climb in and go back to their boats. Dang.

As I am doing what I can to help, I am almost giddy with happiness. This is the stuff I read about in books that people who decide to go cruising write... I am partaking in an event here, an event that never would occur in my normal life. I am out on a pristine Caribbean beach where the water mesmerizes one with it's shades of aqua blue and clarity; I am slightly tipsy on the rum and coke we had with lunch; I am part of a real team effort to help an intrepid adventurer get his cat into the sea after being wrecked on a reef - this is a real memory making day here, one I won't forget for as long as I live. It's fabulous in every way.

Daniel is such a charismatic character, which is very endearing, and his personality along with the upbeat attitude of everyone helping is really making this hard work a fun experience. I am just so happy to be part of it all.

A youngish, spry fellow in a dinghy has joined us and he is all business about the entire operation. He, at first, declares that he is a licensed sea captain so he can't help us. We all aren't sure what that means; Nancy surmises that maybe it's an insurance/liability issue. But then he goes completely against what he just said and takes control. He is shouting orders to Daniel who is on the stern manning the anchor lines. I am not sure what all he wants Daniel to do, but apparently he's not doing it right and the guy loses his temper and calls Daniel an 'effing' idiot. That shocks me but no one else seems to even notice. Regardless of how this guy thinks he knows what to do, nothing works to get the boat any farther into the water until someone comes up with the idea of asking a guy who had tied up a pretty hefty looking motor boat to the dock down the way if he would give us a tow. I had been saying all along that all we needed was a boat to give us a tow, and now we have a boat. The guy is completely happy to help and leaves his barstool and drink to fire up his boat. Walker ties a long rope from the bow of the cat to a post on a fence that divides the hotel property from where we are to keep the cat from floating away once it's in the water. I have a fleeting thought that, should the rope snap, someone could get killed... and then the thought is gone and I concentrate on pushing on the bow with everyone else. The guy backs his boat up (the rope is tied to his bow cleat) and as the rope becomes taut, we all push and the cat starts to move and, in seconds, it is completely in the water. The guy keeps backing up. Walker yells for him to stop. He keeps going, he can't hear us. Once the boat moved into the water, everyone but Daniel moved down the beach away from the fence - not for any reason other than it was a better spot to see the boat once it had moved. As the guy keeps backing up, the rope tying the cat to the fence strains. Walker yells for Daniel to look out as the fence starts to lift and then, suddenly, the rope snaps and the end whips past Daniel, seemingly missing him. I run over to him, "Are you okay? Did it hit you?" He looks at me, wide-eyed with disbelief, "No, it missed me." "Wow, what a miracle, you could have been killed." "I know" he replies. Then he jumps into the water and swims out to his cat.

Powerboat to the rescue.

This whole event, from beginning to end, has been like living a story out of a good book. And now the cat is in the water and it's not sinking. Nancy had wondered to Walker if it might just sink once it was out there; if Daniel hadn't fixed it properly. But it seem he has done a fine job of the repairs.

The sun goes down just as the boat is freed.

Tired but very happy at a job well done, we head back to Hidden Treasure for some dinner. Nancy makes some cooked spicy cabbage and two kinds of sausage and, again, it has to be one of the best meals I have had. I don't know how she does it. I think it's a combination of her cooking skills, the Caribbean air, and a good days work.

One of the best days of my life.

Note: It's taking forever to upload all of the photos, I've been sitting outside on the patio dining area, had breakfast, had a small lizard bite my toe, trying to keep the bazillion ants out of my computer, and am now thinking about lunch while trying to get this blog done and posted!!
All photographs are mine and not to be copied without express permission from me (click on them to see the large version).
Some names have been changed to protect my butt.

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