I hopped in the dinghy off Mango’s stern at 0515, and in an effort to not wake any of the residents of the 20+ other yachts, decided against starting the engine and instead used the oars to get myself to shore. I tied the dinghy up to the base of a palm tree and spent the next hour photographing the same scene as the water movement, cloud cover, and sunlight changed into an immaculately picturesque morning. As I returned to the dinghy, loading my camera set up and tripod into the bow, I realized that in my efforts to quietly escape the yacht, I had forgotten to grab the actual key to the outboard motor. This meant I’d be rowing back out to the boat, against the current. I suddenly pictured myself as Tom Hanks in the film Cast Away, floating on my raft in the same way he floated on the lashed fallen trees, rowing his way towards the massive wave that had kept him captive on the island until that blue piece of Porta-Potty washed ashore and became his sail. Yes, in real life I was nowhere near Tom’s level of desperate or stranded, but it certainly helped me mentally face the fate of rowing against the tide out to the boat. I pushed off the white-sanded bottom of the ocean and launched the dinghy forward, alternating sides a few times before the oar became lodged in the sand and I continued to float out past it. Hind sight being 20/20, there were a hundred different ways I could have handled this and I of course chose the wrong one, jumping off the side of the dinghy into what I thought was shallow water in order to get the oar without losing the boat. It wasn’t until my upper torso was soaked in salt water that I realized my iPhone was in my left pants pocket, and subsequently submerged like the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine. Long story short, phone got fried in the salt water, which is why I’ve disappeared from the face of the socially connected planet for the last 5 days. Rest in peace, phone, we had a great 20 months together. I’ll remember you fondly.
With over 20 miles of sailing to do today, Jimmy wanted anchors up and sails raised by 0745 this morning. Despite my defeated and sad mental state after the events with my phone, I jumped to the bow and raised the anchor as José navigated us out of the harbor. With little wind and a long ways to go, we motor-sailed with the engine running at low RPMs and mainsail raised for about an hour. Passing back by Tobago Cays we continued on towards Petite Canouan, at which point I took over at the helm and held our 45-degree compass heading. The seas were calm, probably the smoothest we’ve had all week, and the wind held steady at 10 knots with “gusts” of 13kts… the sailing was by no means thrilling. I actually was feeling comfortable enough with the boat and our vastly open surroundings to power up the AutoPilot and let the GPS driven drive gear maintain our course back towards Bequia where we had come through on our first night at sea. The ride back took 5 and a half hours, during which I held position at the helm, napped, read through our ASA104 course textbook, and otherwise just relaxed as the world went by. We were forced to trim the sails for a close-haul point of sail, as close as humanly possible to the wind itself… the result being slow speeds and anticlimactic movement.
Shortly after 1330hrs we dropped anchor in the harbor, and after a quick ham and cheese sandwich, I applied more sunscreen and lay out on the deck just forward of the mast for an hour long nap in the Caribbean sun. Waking up to find everyone else napping, I did some final review for the last written exam of the week before Jimmy administered it to us mid-afternoon. The test is designed to be the culmination of everything learned throughout the week/other two textbooks, and consisted of 50 true/false questions and 50 multiple choice. Despite knowing the material of the book rather well, and having thoroughly reviewed the practice exams, I was surprised to find that the test itself had little at all to do with the book or study guides. The grand finale of the ASA exams for the week consisted of 5 questions regarding a weather map/chart, distances between locations, gallons of fuel burned to motor between them, time spent sailing, and exact coordinate locations. I can honestly say I have not had to do that kind of math in a very long time, and the death of my iPhone left me doing hand-written long division for the first time in almost a decade. (Side note, when checked with Rory’s iPhone, my math was actually pretty much spot on). I again didn’t do as well as I had hoped, but given the subject matter’s misalignment from what I read and studied, per the courses requirements, I’m ok with the fact that I passed at all. I’ve never been one for written tests, and have instead always succeeded with hands-on testing, a fact that remains true to my sailing skills this week, which I think Jimmy is well aware of.
After finishing and reviewing the test with Rory, Chris, José, and Jimmy, I showered quickly and got dressed for the evening. We ate an amazing dinner on board prepared by Chris and José, a pasta dish with ground beef and tomato sauce, and homemade guacamole that José whipped up in a bowl with these incredibly sweet avocados he had purchased a day or two ago. Life was good, and we drank and ate together in the boat’s cockpit as the sun set over Admiral’s Bay. After dishes were washed we piled into the dinghy and made our way to Coco’s, a little restaurant/bar establishment that’s right on the water to the north side of the harbor. An advertisement had promised live music, so we grabbed a table on the porch and listened to the great sounds of a man and his keyboard as he covered decades of classics. Listening as he covered Sinatra, Clapton, Bob Marley, and even Cat Stevens. As the sea breeze picked up off the harbor, hand made lanterns swayed above patio tables and cast their unique shadows on the walls of the building as the music played in the background. We ordered drinks, my Jack & ginger being pleasantly stiff, and before long a small birthday “cake” had arrived for Christina. Cold vanilla bean ice cream melted to a drizzly mess over a warmed chocolate brownie, and our five spoons dug into it as if we hadn’t eaten in a week. Another round of drinks was ordered, and I sat back in my chair thinking to myself how lucky I was to be there. A light rain began falling outside as I considered the simple fact that a week ago I didn’t know any of these people, and now we learn, eat, share, and tease like a family. It’s such a unique situation to be in, and an amazing opportunity to be faced with the task of learning and flourishing amongst complete strangers… It took a few days to find a groove, but I’m so happy we did.
Taking the dinghy ride back to the boat in a light rain, I retired to my berth to write this post on my laptop, having given the iPhone a ounce of hope as I tried yet again to turn it on. Oh well, looks like I made an $850 mistake, and it’s certainly one I’ll never make again; thankfully the Canon dSLR lives on strong, though that camera and I have been through hell and back together already so I wasn’t too concerned for it this week. Tomorrow morning we’ll rise late, set sail mid-morning, and be back at the docks at Barefoot Offshore Sailing School by noon to disembark the boat.
Going to sleep smiling, happy that I challenged myself to come down here alone and see if I want to have what it takes to complete my next big adventure.