Around 1000hrs Rory and Christina (Chris) joined us on the porch as we awaited the arrival of Jimmy, our instructor for the week. A salt and peppered hair gentlemen with darkly tanned skin, standing about 5' 6", Jimmy's of South American origin and speaks with a heavy Caribbean accent. Large black ink tattoos sprawl his forearm, and his level of eye contact while speaking is piercing, reminiscent of a teacher I had in high school. The 5 of us sat at a table under the awning at Driftwood and began discussing the week ahead, his expectations, what our expectations should be, and the general overview of our boat, Mango 2, before we went to the docks to stow our gear. It was about this time that my phone rang, which I ignored due to the important nature of the conversation I was involved in. I looked down a few minutes later to see that I had 7 missed calls from my dad, which I knew was not a coincidence or accidental thing. I sent a quick text asking if he was OK, and excused myself, apologizing profusely, when he responded with 'No.'
My parents were in Way-Upstate New York for a tandem bicycle rally this weekend, getting one last morning ride in before heading back to Boston. Riding in a group on a country farm road, my dad at some point steered a little too far to the right of the shoulder, and the front wheel dropped some 2" off the blacktop into a rocky bed of gravel. With their 20+ mph momentum the rocks sucked in the front tires and dragged the bike down a 6-foot embankment where they crashed, laying the bike down on the left side. While the details I have of the incident aren't phenomenal due to limited cell reception and only a few status update text messages, the take home facts were that my mother lost consciousness for a few minutes and the ambulance drivers that arrived on site made the decision to call in a MedFlight to bring her to a Rochester, NY trauma center by helicopter. She was given a full work up of scans, pain meds, etc, and will spend the next days in the hospital before returning to Boston. Speaking to my dad late last night he told me she was doing better, her arm broken and in a sling, with a collar on to keep her neck braced. Being 3,000 miles away on a boat with limited communications is not the ideal place to be, but my dad stressed that the most important thing for me was to focus and do what I came here to do.... So that, and maintain as frequent communication as possible, is what I'll do. Love you, mom.
After stowing our luggage on Mango we went over final briefings, grabbed snorkeling gear, and cast off our bow lines. Jimmy is in the forward berth, a large bed in the bow, Chris and Rory and José are in bedrooms under the aft cockpit (where the steering wheel is), and I've got a small little bedroom the size of my walk-in closet at home with two little bunk beds. I've got two windows that open onto the bow deck, and a 12volt fan that creates a good breeze in an otherwise stagnant room. We used the diesel engine to power out into the harbor before 'heading up', or steering into the wind, in order to raise the mainsail. Mango is in the 45' range, with all of her sail lines routed back to the cockpit for easy operation. The boat is actually laid out quite nicely for even a single person to operate. Our first raising of the sail wasn't exactly smooth, but we have a week to get better at it. After getting some wind power we killed the engine and sailed out between the channel markers to the bay, raising the jib, a smaller and lighter sail forward of the mast, and setting course for a small island a few hours north of St. Vincent.
We took turns at the helm, each steering for 30 minutes or so, and encountered lots of different weather. José took us out of the harbor under light wind and calm waters, which Rory continued further out. It was comedic to hear Chris call out to her husband when he veered off course or a wave pushed him away from the direction of our destination even for a second, as she sat further up in the cockpit and observed. By the time it was my turn, the fair seas had turned to whitecaps and 6-8' waves that rocked the boat drastically. Wind speeds were holding steady at 16 knots with gusts as high as 22kts as I did my best to fight the current underneath and keep the rudder straight. It'll take some practice to learn how to give and take with the steering wheel as we encounter different kinds of seas. We made it to the harbor of the small island Bequia, and spent an hour or two practicing tacking, the act of turning the boat's course by bringing the bow through the wind. It was certainly a different experience to tack on a boat that was 2-3x the length of the boats I sailed during my summers as a kid, and infinitely smoother to do. We eventually dropped our sails and motored into the harbor, dropping our anchor in 8-feet of turquoise blue water, and quickly changing to bathing suits to go snorkeling around the boat. Words cannot describe how enjoyable it is to jump off the back of the boat into relative bathwater... it's infinitely better than the frigid summer water temperatures off the coast of Massachusetts.
After drying off, Jimmy administered our ASA101 course written exam, a multiple choice test of 100 questions, which took me about 25 minutes to complete. I got a 95%, above the 80% required to pass, though two of my incorrect responses were due to messing up which question number and letter bubble I was filling in. C'est la vie. We took the dinghy into the dock and went to a small restaurant called Maria's where we had snapper fish and cold beer for dinner. I was relatively absent (thankfully) from the dinner conversations about American president race politics, and called my dad to check in on mom. Zipping back across the harbor around 2100hrs, I stared up in awe of the constellations in the sky above. I've never slept on a sailboat overnight before, so I'm wondering how I'll take to the incessant rocking.
Day 1 went well, all things considered, and I'm excited to see where tomorrow takes us.