Thursday, September 6, 2012
Catalina Gale: Part VI, Nightmare at Sea
Captain Brad Continues saga:
After this close call, I suggested that Albie take a break, so that in case the worst was not over, he could regain some of his strength. As for myself, I was feeling chipper enough, but knew that I was not going to last forever under these circumstances. It was such a relief to know that I had Albie to relieve me when I couldn’t take it anymore. I am quite sure it would have been far more terrifying to be alone and even further out to sea like many single handers that have sailed around the globe alone.
I was determined to steer “Canta Libre” until she and her crew were safely inside the shelter of the Harbor. I was holding the tiller with white knuckles, as it was almost ripped from my grip on more than one occasion from the tremendous force of the Ocean surging underneath our hull. I eventually began to shiver uncontrollably from the combination of being soaked to the bone and from the wind chill over eight or more straight hours. One usually resists throwing up as it is rarely a pleasant experience. More often than not, it is followed by a period of relief and then eventually subsides when it comes to matter of sea sickness. This time that was not to be the case. Despite years of working and being in some of the worst seas on the planet, I could not stop yakking, and no relief seemed to be in sight. I remember that for most of my life, I was completely and I do mean totally immune to motion sickness. I hate to admit it, but I would actually laugh and make fun of friends and acquaintances alike that would succumb to its powers. I guess this was time for payback. I will never ever make fun of anyone ever again, guaranteed. I was so weakened from the cold and dehydration by this time that I would be physically useless should any emergency arise. I ran through the hypothetical in my mind, that even if the ship were to begin sinking, I don’t think I would have lasted for more than a few minutes. Time to get Albie. As I cracked the companion way hatch open slightly, I tried to yell out for Albie to come relieve me for a while. Instead a faint croaking whisper emitted from my lips. The hydrochloric acids from my stomach had taken a toll on my throat and vocal cords. Despite this, Albion not only heard me but was quick to respond. It was trickier than I expected to be able to hand off the tiller to him without the boat being tumbled over. The timing had to be perfect, and it was. I had been anticipating this moment for hours now as I stumbled into the safety and shelter of the cabin, I was not prepared however for what I was about to witness. The entire interior of the boat was the unequalled example of chaos. The table was dispatched from the wall. Every item to have at one time been stowed in its place was cast on to the cabin floor and walls and corners. Intermingled throughout were perceptible chunks of vomit. My son Brad was seemingly passed out on the floor, although I do believe I saw his hand move in a gesticulation resembling a wave, perhaps to briefly acknowledge my presence. Louie was propped up against the starboard side with his head covered. Max was huddled up in the V-birth. No one seemed worried or concerned as to the situation, so I figured why not join the club. Besides, I had only one thought on my mind: To get dry, and lie down and rest. Even if it were only for a few minutes. I feebly, but as quickly as I could manage, stripped off my sopping wet shirt, and found a damp one to put on instead. Ah! To be seemingly dry. There is nothing to be compared to that feeling. I was feeling a hundred percent better already. I found a wonderful spot to lie down that had amazingly been left vacant by everyone else. I just barely fit, but it was otherwise perfect for what was next on my list of priorities, sleep. Although my whole body was being flung around to and fro as a result of the bow of the boat plunging into waves just to the other side of the thin fiberglass walls that surrounded me, I could not be dissuaded from the thought of closing my eyes and drifting off into a state of ecstasy. No sooner had I laid my weary head down when a compelling amount of water erupted through a gap in the forward hatch and descended down upon me in geyser fashion, drenching me with chilly cold salt spray. Well, being dry for one and a half minutes is better than not being dry at all. I tried to ignore the irratic showers of cold water that seemed to aim themselves at my face, but it was not an option. Every time a particularly big wave would engulf us, it would find its way to say hello to me inside the v-birth. So much for sleep and shelter. That’s roughly when I realized that I was still sea sick despite all. Max was watching me with empathy, as he generously handed me his personal barf bucket, that he had been hugging up to that juncture. I noticed that it was far from empty --- to hydrate myself unless someone had a bottle of 6% saline solution and an I.V. needle handy. I looked up and saw that he had a peculiar look in his eyes. It was a combination of him trying to be polite and respectful to his elders, and desperation all at the same time. And that’s when it dawned on me. I was hogging his bucket. So we kept passing it back and forth taking turns at fairly quick intervals to vomit, and then vomit some more. At around this juncture in time, I heard Albie calling out “Were not far away”. I climbed out into the cockpit again, just in time to see some huge following seas pushing us towards shore. We were virtually leapfrogging towards the rocks. Just on the other side of the rocks was the safety of the Harbor we were so earnestly longing for. But we were not safe yet by any means. We were surfing so quickly down the front of each wave that we would have to time the entrance like clockwork. If we turned too soon, we would be dashed on to the rocks. If we turned several seconds too late, the same would result. We changed our direction of sail to a quarter reach, so as to gain both a little more control and speed, and seemingly flew past the safe water buoy labeled RB, and in-between the red and green harbor entrance buoys, past the demarcation line. The British and most other parts of the world are under the AYALA-A system. When we fought the Revolutionary war back in the 1700’s we would switch the buoys around at night, so as to confuse the British ships, and make them crash into the rocks. To this day the United States and its influences are still under the AYALA- B system, which is the opposite of the British. Remember this next time you are sailing into port at night time in a foreign country. This means that as you travel clockwise around our country, the red navigational buoys are supposed to be on the starboard side of the ship (Red Right Returning). Just to make it confusing though, this does not apply to the inter-coastal waterways, or the Great lakes. Well, all history and navigations lessons set aside, we were safely home Alas (At last). The Harbor Patrol boat came out to escort us in. One of the officers had bet his Commander $20.00 that no one would be crazy enough to venture out in these conditions. I think he came out to get us just to win his bet. Regardless, when they heard we had just crossed all the way from Catalina, they were speechless. Of coarse we were glad for the assistance; since the waves had ripped our engine completely off the transom of the boat. Now that is some violent sea conditions! May it rest in peace.
Posted by Albie at 9:12 AM
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